King calls for greater peace efforts by France, EU

King Abdullah on Wednesday urged greater efforts by France and the EU to help revive the Middle East peace process, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.“Jordan is keen to see enhanced efforts by France and the European Union to launch Palestinian-Israeli political negotiations that would lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state in line with the Arab Peace Initiative,” the King told French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a meeting in Paris.

The 2002 peace plan, which was reendorsed by the Riyadh Arab summit in March, offers Israel normal ties in return for withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 war and a solution to the refugee issue.

The Monarch, who returned yesterday from a short visit to France, underlined the need to back the Palestinian Authority “to help create a strong partner for peace”, Petra said.

During the meeting, Sarkozy told King Abdullah that it was time for a new initiative to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,  presidential spokesman  David Martinon was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

Abbas set up a new government after sacking the previous unity Cabinet led by the Islamist Hamas movement, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last month.

Sarkozy briefed the Monarch on a telephone conversation he had with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Martinon said.

The president “told King Abdullah what he told Ehud Olmert which is that we must absolutely help Mahmoud Abbas and take initiative,” said Martinon, according to AFP.

Sarkozy, who met with Abbas on Friday, was due to hold talks later in the day with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said following talks with Livni that he had urged Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners than the 250 detainees that Olmert said would be freed at the end of June.

Talks between the two leaders, the first since Sarkozy was elected as president, also covered means to boost bilateral relations.

The King thanked Sarkozy for his initiative to swap part of Amman’s $946 million debt to Paris with French investments, “which is expected to boost the European country’s position as the largest foreign investor in the Kingdom”.

“King Abdullah appreciated Sarkozy’s readiness to work with his European partners on repurchasing the Kingdom’s debts, as Jordan requested from the Paris Club,” Petra said. A team of Finance Ministry experts is following up on the issue.

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