Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Sarkozy calls for halt to Israeli settlements

OPEN ROADS The French president also called for easing travel restrictions in the West Bank, where the World Bank says roadblocks are obstructing economic growth

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM AND TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, right, speaks with children and hospital staff at Jerusalem Hadassah hospital yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Monday for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank while also proclaiming staunch support for Israel in an address to its parliament.

“There can be no peace without stopping settlement,” Sarkozy told members of parliament and invited guests.

Israeli authorities have announced the construction of hundreds of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank in recent months, infuriating the Palestinians and drawing criticism from the international community, which regards all settlements on occupied land as illegal.

Sarkozy also called for an easing of travel restrictions in the West Bank, where the army operates hundreds of roadblocks which the World Bank says are a major obstacle to economic growth but which Israel insists are vital to its security.

He said the Palestinians also had to do more in order to achieve peace: “There can be no peace if Palestinians themselves do not combat terrorism.”

Sarkozy stressed that France was strongly committed to Israel’s security.

“France will always be by Israel’s side when its security, its existence are threatened,” he said, adding that France would consider it “unacceptable” for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

“France is determined to pursue with its partners a policy ranging from ever-tighter sanctions to an opening should Tehran opt to respect its international obligations,” he said.

Sarkozy said a lasting peace required the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel with both sharing Jerusalem as their capital.

“There can be no peace without recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of freedom of access to the holy places for all religions,” he said.

Israel occupied Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It has since said the city is “indivisible.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Sarkozy’s speech, his spokesman said.

“The positions expressed by President Sarkozy reflect the French support for the Palestinian cause in seeking to reach a peaceful settlement in the region,” Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Sarkozy later met with the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for the past two years and who also has French nationality.

“Gilad must be released,” Sarkozy told members of the French community after the meeting. “One does not build peace by holding hostages.”

INCIDENT

An Israeli soldier on the perimeter of a farewell airport ceremony for Sarkozy apparently shot himself yesterday in a incident that did not endanger the visiting leader, Israel Radio said. TV footage showed bodyguards hustling Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, into their airplane at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport while other security men surrounded Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and moved him quickly toward his car.

The plane departed without further incident.

Israel Radio said the soldier who was shot was stationed 100m to 200m away from the plane. Two women soldiers who witnessed the shooting fainted and were treated by medics.

Volunteer medical service Zaka said the soldier apparently committed suicide.

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