French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed his fear that Israel no longer appears prepared to pursue negotiations in the Middle East, adding that Paris remains fervently opposed to settlement construction in the West Bank, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.
In an interview with France Inter radio, Kouchner elucidated that he did not anticipate a forthcoming breakthrough in peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel. There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace,”
Kouchner added that, “It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”
Franco-Israeli relations have not always been comfortable, with France vociferously insisting on a halt to settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank.
Moreover, while the Obama administration lately relieved pressure on Israel over settlement building, reversing its initial demand for a total settlement freeze, Kouchner was adamant that France remained opposed to the issue.
Kouchner’s comments come ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy on Wednesday.
The French foreign minister urged President Mahmoud Abbas to reverse his decision to step down, a matter he intends to discuss with the president during his upcoming travels to the region, it was reported earlier on Tuesday.