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France condemns new Israeli settlement plans as Mahmoud Abbas visits Paris

Reuters/Benoit Tessier

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas started a two-day visit to Paris, France on Thursday slammed Israel’s plan to expand a West Bank settlement by 300 homes and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to allow the construction to go ahead.

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"We call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abstain from implementing these plans,” foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said. “We recall that colonisation in all its forms is illegal under international law, undermines the two-state solution at ground level and is an obstacle to peace."

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He urged Netanyahu to “avoid provocations” and “renew dialogue” with the Palestinian leadership, who broke off direct talks in 2010 because of expanding settlements on the West Bank.

Netanyahu on Wednesday declared that 300 new settler homes would be built in Beit El, after MPs voted down a bill which would have retrospectively legalised the construction of five buildings on private Palestinian land.

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Abbas was set to meet French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius Thursday and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and President François Hollande on Friday.

The visit would be an opportunity for France to confirm its support for “a sovereign and viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel” as a means of achieving Middle East peace, a statement by Fabius said.

The failure of Abbas’s Fatah and its Islamist rivals Hamas to form a coalition government and the parlous state of Palestinian finances are also expected to come up.

On Wednesday Fabius met Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, assuring him of France’s support for peace in the Middle East and “resolute determination” to stop Iran’s alleged plans to build nuclear weapons.

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