Kouchner changes tone on recognizing Palestinian state


PARIS (JTA) — France’s foreign minister distanced himself from earlier comments calling for international recognition of a Palestinian state before final peace negotiations.

On Monday, Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos called on the European Union to speed up Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by amplifying their investment in the process.

In a joint-written column in the French daily Le Monde, they called on the EU to “take responsibility” for the region, since current efforts at a political accord “remain out of sync” with greater EU financial aid investment in the Palestinian Authority.

European sponsors for the Palestinian Authority have not been sufficiently “compensated by the opening of a real political perspective” of peace, said the foreign ministers, who outlined the need for a European-led “limited calendar of negotiations” toward a peace accord.

But Kouchner did not reiterate earlier remarks from an interview published Sunday in which he said he “can imagine the rapid proclamation of a Palestinian state, and its immediate recognition by the international community, even before negotiations on borders. I’d be tempted by that … I’m not sure I have a following, or even to be right [about it],” Kouchner told the French newspaper JDD.

In a change of tone on Monday, Kouchner said a Palestinian state should be recognized following what he hopes will be greater European-led investment in the economy and security of the region, plus a proposal to have an EU-hosted conference on peace with Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

On Monday, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry told JTA that Kouchner does not want to “impose a [Palestinian] state” before Israelis and Palestinians have come to a final agreement. The spokesperson said Kouchner’s earlier call for a pre-emptive declaration of a Palestinian state was a point of "reflection, an idea," and did not reflect the ministry’s official position.

Following a meeting Monday in Paris between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, both leaders confirmed that an official recognition of a Palestinian state should not be made without first negotiating a peace accord with Israel.

"Negotiations first, the proclamation of a state after," Abbas told French journalists following the Monday meeting in Paris.

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