France is joining the US's position on construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday condemned Israel's decision to authorize the construction of 900 housing units in the neighborhood and urged Israel to hold "face to face" talks with the Palestinians.
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni met with Kouchner in Jerusalem on Wednesday and told him that "there is Israeli consensus on the neighborhood of Gilo. Beyond dealing with the immediate issue, this understanding is important for all discussions about permanent borders."
On the Iranian issue Livni said a deadline for talks should be set: "It's time for harsh sanctions against Iran. Dialogue should also be within a timeframe."
After meeting with the opposition chairwoman, Kouchner met with Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. The soldier's father said he did not get any new significant information in the meeting, but that it was part of the relationship between the family – which holds French citizenship – and heads of government in Paris who have been assisting in talks for Gilad's release.
Kouchner with Noam and Aviva Shalit (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"The meeting with Kouchner was part of the ongoing dialogue that we have with the French government," Noam Shalit said, "They are constantly working, especially behind the scenes in their channels. We thank them very much for their activity."
Shalit added that he did not get any new information on progress in talks for his son's release. "And even if there was something," he said, "these are secret talks, which we will not discuss in the media."
Regarding reports of a prisoner exchange deal to be executed next week, Shalit said he had no knowledge of the source of the information. "The Arab media tend to publish contradicting reports every so often. Sometimes of a near deal, and sometimes of major and significant gaps. We don't give this much importance," he said.
He added that as far as he knows, there has been no exceptional progress in talks for his son's release. "I know that they are working meticulously and negotiations are ongoing, but I have no knowledge of any developments," he said.
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report