Sarkozy asks Netanyahu to freeze settlements

PARIS (JTA) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined the Obama administration in asking Israel’s prime minister to freeze settlement activity.

"Starting with a total freeze of settlement activity,” Israel should use “every possible means to encourage the trust” of Palestinians, said a presidential statement released Wednesday evening summarizing Sarkozy’s expressed views during a meeting earlier in the day with Benjamin Netanyahu.

In reaction to Sarkozy’s firm stance on settlement growth, Netanyahu told journalists his colleague’s views were “not new” and a “reminder," the French news agency AFP reported.

In the same statement, Sarkozy also said a "future Palestinian state cannot in any way constitute a threat to the security of Israel."

Netanyahu officially met with Sarkozy in Paris for the first time since his election and, among other things, tried to sell his idea for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state. His scheduled Thursday meeting with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell was canceled at the last minute.

French media reports speculated that the cancellation was due to “tension” between Israel and the Obama administration over the settlement question, according to AFP. Netanyahu reportedly said the change was needed in order to "clarify" unspecified topics.

Later that day, in an address to approximately 1,000 people hosted by the CRIF, a French Jewish umbrella organization, Netanyahu lauded the “courage” of Iranian protesters.

"Until how long must we wait for the international community to sanction this regime, so as to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he asked.
 

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