France - Palestinian Territories - Israel

Help free Franco-Palestinian, Abbas tells Sarkozy after Shalit deal

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas called on France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy to work for the liberation of Franco-Palestinian prisoner in Israel after the agreement to exchange Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for over 1,000 Palestinians.

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On a visit to Paris Friday Abbas congratulated Sarkozy on Shalit’s forthcoming release, noting that France had made “considerable efforts” to win his liberation.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

But he pointed out that Salah Hamouri, a 26-year-old Palestinian who has French nationality, has been in an Israeli jail since 2005 after a military court found him guilty of planning to kill a rabbi, charges that he denies.

Earlier this year Hamouri’s mother told RFI that foreign ministry officials had refused to meet her to discuss her son’s case.

France hopes that Hamouri will be among the Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for Shalit, foreign ministry official Bernard Valero said after Abbas's statement.

Speaking after meeting Sarkozy, Abbas, who is on a tour to drum up support for recognition of a Palestinian state, said that he thanked the French president for his speech during the UN debate on the bid.

While the US threatened to veto it, Sarkozy called for Palestine to have intermediate observer status as a step towards full UN membership.

And the Palestinian president lashed out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that continuing construction of Israeli settlements demonstrated that he does not want peace.

Israel has formally submitted plans for a new settlement neighbourhood in annexed east Jerusalem in what will be the sector's first new district in 14 years, the Israeli Peace Now movement said on Friday.

The new district, Givat HaMatos, will be located on the southern flank of east Jerusalem which lies close to the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

The move "proves the Israeli government wants to destroy the peace process and the two-state solution”, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, who is travelling with Abbas, told the AFP news agency in Paris.

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