French President Francois Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that his country would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had ended a pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Jerusalem on the first part of a three-day visit to Israel and West Bank, he laid out four demands which must be in place for an agreement with Iran to successfully rein in its nuclear programme.
“France is in favour of an interim agreement but on the basis of four points,” Hollande said at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The first demand: put all the Iranian nuclear installations under international supervision, right now. Second point: suspend enrichment to 20 percent. Thirdly: to reduce the existing stock.
“And finally, to halt construction of the Arak (heavy water) plant. These are the points which for us are essential to guarantee any agreement,” he said.
His remarks were made on the eve of a new round of talks in Geneva between world powers and Iran seeking to reach an agreement to scale back Tehran’s contested nuclear programme.
A previous round of talks ended on November 10 without agreement, with France taking a tougher stance than its Western partners in a move which won glowing praise in Israel.
Construction of settlements
Earlier on Sunday, Hollande said that France expected Israel to make “gestures” over its construction of settlements on land the Palestinians wanted for a future state.
“Some gestures have already been started by Israel – the freeing of prisoners,” he said.
However, “other gestures are expected, especially in the area of settlements,” he said in remarks in a news conference with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres.
Hollande said he would raise the issue of “gestures” expected from the Palestinian side as well when he travels to Ramallah on Monday for talks with Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas.
His remarks came just three days after the entire Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest after Israel announced its largest-ever batch of 20,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank.
Abbas earlier warned that the current stalled peace talks with Israel would be effectively over if Israel proceeded with the construction of settlements.
But Hollande’s comments were quickly countered by Netanyahu on grounds it was creating a needless confrontation with the international community at a time when Israel was trying to get across an urgent message about stopping a nuclear Iran.
Previous direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed just weeks after they began in September 2010 in a bitter dispute over settlements construction.