(Paris, 17 December 2007)
Bernard Kouchner and I want to begin by welcoming you to Paris.
Three weeks after the Annapolis Conference, we are gathered here today to make our contribution to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After years of violence, after years of mistrust, Annapolis has rekindled hope. The two parties have resumed dialogue. A large international coalition has rallied to assert its refusal to accept fatalism and extremism. A political path has been mapped out: to work, all together, to create, by the end of 2008, a democratic, viable and independent Palestinian State living in peace and security alongside Israel.
We owe this historic turning point first and foremost to two men, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas. Two statesmen who have courageously decided to take the future of their people in hand. Two men of peace who share the same clear-sighted belief that the answer to ending the conflict is in the two-State solution. Both men have understood that this is the way, the only way, to finally realize the legitimate national aspirations of the two peoples. I would also like to commend the courage and determination of those who have engaged, alongside Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, in this labour for peace, and in particular the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni.
We also owe this historic turning point to President Bush and Condoleeza Rice, who have chosen to resolutely engage the United States once more in the peace process.
But we owe this historic turning point as well to the members of the League of Arab States who endorsed the initiative proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2002. We owe this initiative too to the efforts of Tony Blair whom I want to thank.
A page is turning. Time is of the essence: we have one year to achieve our purpose. Yet we are not starting from scratch. Sixteen years after Madrid, fourteen years after Oslo, seven years after the missed opportunity of Camp David and Taba, despite the failures and disappointments, one thing is clear: the taboos have been broken. We now know the parameters for a final settlement: they have been outlined by the United Nations resolutions, the principle of exchanging land for peace, the Quartet’s Roadmap and the Arab peace initiative. For us, it is now more a question of will than imagination. If we want to have it, we will.
Israelis and Palestinians know the goal they are aiming for. We need to let them negotiate. We, the international community, should assist them, with determination, but without dictating, by giving them our support and, above everything else, our trust. And it is precisely for this reason that we are gathered here in Paris
France is proud to be hosting, on its soil, this donors conference, which it is chairing alongside Tony Blair, co-chair and the Quartet’s Special Representative for the Middle East, Norway as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, and the European Commission. In keeping with Annapolis, we have decided to dedicate this conference to the Palestinian State. I would like to dwell a few moments on this now-accepted concept of a Palestinian State and the rarely defined substance of this concept that you, Mr President, and all of us gathered here today call for to be created next year.
An independent and democratic Palestinian State, which Palestinians, wherever they may be, will see as their own. A State in which the Palestinians can build their future together and freely define their destiny. A peaceful State that will be a reliable partner for its neighbours, first and foremost Israel.
A sovereign State in terms of its territory and its resources, controlling its borders and enjoying continuity between Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A State with a rule of law, with strong and independent institutions that will ensure the security of its citizens, enforce law and order, combat the militias and establish a single armed force for a single authority. A modern State developing an open economy and efficient infrastructures for the Palestinians. In short, a politically and economically viable State, that of the Palestinian nation.
I know, Mr President, that it is your ambition to create this State. Your Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has presented a three-year plan for reform that is unprecedented in Palestinian history. This plan is ambitious and realistic. It is proactive and demonstrates budgetary common sense. I commend its rigour. It shows the Palestinian National Authority’s capacity to take up the challenge of building the State.
The donors and the Bretton Woods institutions have commended the quality of your plan. We want to help you. Our aim is not to perpetuate assistance to the Palestinians indefinitely. I know that the Palestinian leaders’ dearest wish is to no longer depend on international aid, to be independent, to build the future. I also know that there is a dynamic private sector in the Palestinian territories that is keen to grow. Economic development is the best guarantee of lasting peace and long-term security for Israel.
Let’s be clear: we have three goals:
- The Paris Conference should provide immediate support to the entire population of the Palestinian Territories. Our financial assistance will also go to the population of Gaza. Its prolonged isolation carries huge political, economic and security risks. We will help the Palestinian National Authority to develop projects there. The crossing points will have to be reopened to allow the economy there to breathe. In the long run, Palestinians will need to rebuild their unity, behind President Abbas. Peace will not be possible without Gaza, an integral part of the future Palestinian State. Peace will not be possible under the leadership of groups who refuse to accept the existence of Israel - this is not acceptable - and who rule through violence.
- The second goal is support for the Palestinian economy. It cannot grow without a drastic change in the situation on the ground. The immediate freeze on all settlement construction is a priority. How can the creation of a viable economy be envisaged otherwise? The Palestinians must be able to make use of and develop their territory. I must insist on this point and everyone knows my friendship for Israel. It is in Israel’s own interest, provided its own security is not threatened, to foster a normal existence in the West Bank. This alone will enable the Palestinians to work, to stop ruminating on their humiliation, to curb the violence and the trafficking, and to regain their zest for life. Lastly, the Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, especially the chamber of commerce, must reopen their doors.
- Finally, the third goal: the Paris Conference needs to assist the gradual construction of a modern State. The Palestinian Authority has undertaken to ensure respect for law and order. This is fundamental, since security is the key to sovereignty. The Palestinian services must be reformed and gain professionalism. At the same time, Israel must withdraw from the West Bank. The international community needs to provide its assistance to achieve this goal, hard as it may be. The European Union has engaged in promising cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the area of security. France proposes the deployment, when the time and conditions are right, of an international force to assist the Palestinian security services.
The achievement of these goals depends on you, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and on your own efforts. I say out of friendship with the Palestinian Authority: the time has come to embark on real reforms and take concrete action with regard to the security issues. No one can do it in your place. I say to my Israeli friends: the time has come to put an end to the occupation that started in 1967, to enable an entire people to recover their dignity. You are, on each side, partners for peace. The Israelis want peace. The Palestinians want peace. Your projects will serve this peace. Grasp the unique opportunity before you today! Don’t let this historic opportunity pass you by! The time has come for peace! This is what your peoples, exhausted by their ordeals, overwhelmingly want. Give them the best gift of all: peace!
What is expected of us, the international community, is to provide concrete support for the achievement of this objective. In a context that is exceptional in so many ways, an exceptional financial effort is asked of us. An immediate effort.
France announces that it will provide, to support the creation of the Palestinian State, $300 million. France will disburse €25 million in budget aid as early as tomorrow so that from the beginning of January the Palestinians can meet the most pressing needs. Today Bernard Kouchner - whom I thank again - and I will be signing a budget support agreement with Mr Salam Fayyad. In addition to this aid, there will naturally be France’s share of the European Union’s aid to be announced in a few moments.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Momentum for peace is building once again. It must not - it cannot - fail. We, the international community, must support it with all our might. Annapolis set in motion just under a year of decisive negotiations. Paris is the vital complement to this. In opening the work of this conference, I want to urge you to be equal to the challenge! Let us be generous. Let us be bold. Peace depends on it and this peace will benefit every part of the world. We cannot take any more war, we want peace, we want to help the people of Israel and the Palestinian people to build together a future of reconciliation.