Middle East

France urges Israel, Palestinians to talk after ceasefire ends

An Israeli soldier (R) stands in the dust as he directs a Merkava tank at an army deployment point near the Israeli-Gaza border August 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

PARIS: French President Francois Hollande called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume truce talks after a Gaza cease-fire collapsed and said the demilitarization of the enclave and a lifting of a blockade should be part of a deal.

Israeli airstrikes killed 11 Palestinians in Gaza, including the wife and infant son of Hamas' military leader, Mohammad Deif, in what the group said was an attempt to assassinate him after the failure of Egyptian-brokered negotiations.

"We are at a critical point. France supports the Egyptian mediation," Hollande told Le Monde in an interview. "Gaza can no longer remain like it is. The objective must be a demilitarization and a lifting of the blockade."

Accusing Hamas of breaking the truce with rocket fire eight hours before it was to have expired, Israel recalled its negotiators from truce talks in Cairo Tuesday. Palestinian negotiators walked out of the talks later, blaming Israel for their failure.

"Demilitarization can only be done under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. France with Europe can be useful in lifting the blockade at the Rafah crossing. Gaza must neither be an open prison or a military base," Hollande said.

Hollande said if negotiations failed then the international community would have to take the lead to find a solution.

"We must do everything to ensure negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resume to find a solution to the conflict. We know the parameters, the only solution is a two states living side by side," he said.





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