A trip by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas comes with talks between Israel and the Palestinians still in deep freeze, and with the Palestinians pledging to seek United Nations recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.
In an interview with AFP last week, Abbas said he would be asking his French counterpart President Nicolas Sarkozy “for his advice” on the best approach to seeking recognition for an independent Palestinian state.
“We are friends, so he can be sincere with us and to talk to us openly,” Abbas said of the French leader, who he is expected to meet on Thursday.
The Palestinian leader’s trip to France is part of a diplomatic swing that has already taken him in recent weeks to Britain, Denmark and Russia, and will be followed in May with a visit to Germany.
It comes at a time when the Palestinian leadership seems increasingly committed to pressing for UN recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, to include the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
But that course of action is fiercely opposed by Israel, and has run into strong resistance from the United States.
Washington has also expressed opposition to a European initiative to kickstart talks by offering the outlines of a final peace deal, including on security and borders, postponing a meeting of the peacemaking Quartet to avoid discussion of the suggestion, according to diplomats.
The meeting postponement, which Abbas called unfortunate, was the latest US measure to disappoint the Palestinians, who had hoped to garner Washington’s support for a UN resolution condemning settlement building earlier this year.
American diplomats acknowledged that the measure largely reflected US policy on Israeli settlement building, which Washington has condemned, but the United States still vetoed the resolution at the Security Council.
European nations, by contrast, voted in favour of the resolution and have publicly stated their commitment to finding a way to restart peace talks.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Tuesday warned that the status quo was “untenable.”
He said the European Union was “working on initiatives that we can take to the meeting of the UN General Assembly to convince the different actors to return to the negotiating table.”
Asked if the recognition of a Palestinian state was included in the initiatives, Juppe said it was “a question we must think about and one that we are thinking about. And it will be raised in September or October.”
The Palestinians have regularly drawn attention to US President Barack Obama’s pledge to seek the creation of a Palestinian state by September of this year.
“If we go to September without any results, of course we will ask the American president to fulfil his promises,” Abbas said.
“He said that he wishes to see a state with full partnership in the United Nations. This is a promise from the American president.”
But increasingly the Palestinian leadership has found more support for its position among European nations, including on the issue of settlements.
After the UN vote on settlement building, Britain, France and Germany even issued an additional statement, condemning continued Israeli construction on occupied land.
The statement also called for peace talks with “clear parameters,” with the goal of a deal based on the 1967 borders and a “just, fair and agreed solution to the (Palestinian) refugee question.”
“That statement is for us very wonderful and we are satisfied with it,” Abbas said last week, adding that the Palestinians would be willing to return to talks based on those parameters.
Abbas’s leadership has also received a significant boost in recent weeks with assessments from the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, deeming his Palestinian Authority ready to govern a state. Agencies