Sarkozy calls October Middle East talks in Paris
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday he would ask Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to peace talks in Paris before the end of October.
Sarkozy made the announcement at a news conference with Abbas after talks in Paris, saying the talks should help prepare a summit in late November of leaders from European and Mediterranean countries including Middle East players.
Abbas said the construction of Jewish settlements should be frozen for several months more. "The settlements must stop," he said. "Israel has a moratorium for 10 months and it should be extended for 3 to 4 months more to give peace a chance."
That was a position Sarkozy backed when he too said:" The settlements must stop."
Both Abbas and Netanyahu had agreed to the Paris talks, Sarkozy said.
Israel allowed its halt in settlement construction to expire on Monday, defying a U.S. call to extend the moratorium and risking a Palestinian withdrawal from Washington-sponsored peace talks.
Abbas said the Palestinians would not have a knee-jerk reaction to the settlement question and would make a decision once it had held talks with its leadership and other Arab countries on October 4.
Asked if the call for more talks in Paris complicated peace efforts initiated by Washington, Sarkozy said nothing could be done without U.S. support but that was not enough in itself to secure a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict:
"Nothing will be resolved without strong American backing," he said. "But does the strong commitment that's needed have to be exclusive? That's been the question for 10 years, since Camp David. If such an exclusive commitment was enough, we'd know it."
(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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