Qatar and France in Mideast peace push


Sarkozy, who with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak helped broker a Gaza ceasefire last month, later held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, the first stop of his European tour.

The French president has sought to carve out a greater role for Europe in the search for peace in the Middle East after the 22-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip that left 1,330 dead.

After meeting with Sarkozy, HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said he supported a national union government for the Palestinians and that Arab countries should unite to support a Palestinian solution.

“Arab countries cannot support one Palestinian faction against another,” said the prime minister.

“These disagreements complicate Palestinian efforts to succeed in forming a government,” he told reporters.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, who also met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, stressed the need for the speedy reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, warning that the Israeli blockade would further agitate the situation there.

“It is of very important to start the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip as soon as possible as it will help alleviate sufferings of the people in Gaza,” he said.

“The siege would only lead to further agitating the situation and would not, as some people imagine, lead to kneeling the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

He affirmed that the speech of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, of Saudi Arabia, at the Kuwaiti Arab economic summit offered the ideal solution for patching up the pan-Arab differences.

He voiced his conviction that these differences were not an obstacle “hindering the Palestinian reconciliation process but a mere fuss posed to the Palestinians to reach positive results”.

Qatar has emerged as a regional mediator since it helped resolve a long-standing political crisis in Lebanon last year.

President Barack Obama’s envoy ended his Middle East tour on Sunday and stopped over in Paris to brief officials on his round of meetings.

Mitchell was in Europe as Arab countries and world powers sought to firm up a ceasefire in Gaza.

One Palestinian was killed on Monday in an Israeli air strike on militants who had fired mortars on southern Israel.

The 75-year-old former US senator said in Israel on Friday that Washington was committed to “actively and aggressively” seeking lasting peace in the Middle East but warned there would be further setbacks.

French officials said they sounded out Mitchell, who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland in 1998, on the new administration’s plan to bring the Gaza crisis to an end and revive Israeli-Arab peace talks.

“He did not outline any specific proposals to re-launch the peace process, but he did underscore that the first priority was to maintain the truce and work toward a permanent ceasefire,” said a French official, who asked not to be named.

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