Addressing Israel's controversial plan to build hundreds of housing units in Jerusalem's southeastern Gilo neighborhood, visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday, "I understand that this is not a political decision, and it should not be an obstacle to resuming negotiations."
Speaking to Israeli reporters at the Jaffa residence of French Ambassador Chritophe Bigot, Kouchner said that while France is opposed to settlement construction in principle, "this case (Gilo) should not be an obstacle."
US President Barack Obama, the European Union, Russia and the UN have all criticized Israel's plans to build in Gilo.
Kouchner continued to say that France would not recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, adding that statements made by Palestinian officials in this regard are merely aimed at attracting international attention to the Palestinian issue in the absence of negotiations with Israel.
"I expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas a sign and encourage him – give him some hope in an uncertain world," said France's top diplomat.
"This is a dangerous time. We must not give up on the struggle for peace – you must not give up, and the Palestinians must not give up," he said.
"Despite these difficult times, we are close to an achievement – the establishment of a Palestinian state," said Kouchner.