Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande, hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

Abbas in France: Palestinian people are suffocating under Israeli policies

PNN/Ramallah

“The Palestinian people who are suffocating under Israeli policies fully back France’s new initiative to advance the peace process,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told French President Francois Hollande during a meeting Friday night in Paris.

The PA President set out for France on Friday, after which he was to head to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss “the evolution of the political situation in Palestine and the region,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also meet with Putin in Moscow next Thursday.

In Paris, Abbas said after the meeting that he had updated Hollande on what he called the difficult and suffocating circumstances in which the Palestinian people live, due to Israel’s occupation and settlement expansion and the shadow of a diplomatic impasse.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the PA leader would also travel to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before flying to New York to attend meetings at the United Nations, but did not provide exact dates.

“France plays an important role in efforts to establish a fair, comprehensive and durable peace in accordance with international resolutions,” Abu Rudeineh said.

Ahead of his two-week foreign tour, Abbas told the French Press, AFP, there was an “urgent” need for a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, and accused the US of insufficient action on the issue.

“The Security Council is a very important subject because it has now become urgent due to settlement activities and because Israel has not stopped these activities,” Abbas said, with the Palestinians currently discussing a new draft resolution at the UN Security Council on the subject.

The draft resolution, which was submitted last month, defines Israeli settlements as illegal and calls for a one-year timetable to reach a final-status agreement, according to a copy of the text posted online.

The resolution was written up in consultation with Security Council members.

France launched an effort earlier this year to host an international conference in the summer to revive peace talks. It initially vowed to recognize a Palestinian state if talks failed, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault later said the recognition would not be automatic.

On Friday French President Francois Hollande reaffirmed that an international conference to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the best way to bring peace, following a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“This process implies a certain order and a certain calendar. Firstly, bring together all the partners, of course the Quartet but also other countries who are conscious of the situation and who want to participate in the solution. And we will work to bring together first of all, the foreign ministers of those countries, and then see how we can work with the interested parties. But this initiative serves the peace process, this initiative doesn’t intend to block any steps but at the same time we think that it’s the best course of action,” Hollande told journalists after his meeting with Abbas.