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Sarkozy Wants EU Consensus on PA Statehood

Amid the EU debt crisis and a push for PA trade, France's Nicolas Sarkozy wants a single European position on PA statehood.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/31/2011, 10:41 PM

Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Official Photo

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday he wants a united European Union voice on the issue of the Palestinian Authority statehood bid at the United Nations in September.

"The role of the US is uncontested and irreplaceable, but everybody sees that it is not enough. We have to widen the circle of negotiation, think of the role and the pertinence of the Quartet."

Sarkozy added that the world could not continue to leave the Israeli-PA peace process frozen while the "Arab Spring" causes change elsewhere in the region.

Up until now most EU countries have refrained from committing on how they would vote on the resolution, saying it would depend on the text of the resolution itself. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is scheduled to convene an informal meeting of the EU’s 27 foreign ministers to discuss the issue on September 2.

Sarkozy's comments have been criticized by some commentators as being driven by a desire for Arab trade - and to silence nations who dissent from his views - rather than principle, amid fears that France's triple-A credit rating could come under threat if the European sovereign debt crisis worsens.

The European Parliament's International trade committee voted 27-0 to fully open markets to farm and fish products from PA enclaves in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The vote paved the way for full parliamentary approval for a deal later this year.

"This deal is enormously important. It gives more power to the Palestinians to trade directly with the EU. And it's a signal of good will from the international community that comes at an important time," said Maria Eleni Koppa, a Greek socialist lawmaker who led the committee's discussion on the issue.

The full European Parliament is due to vote on the trade agreement in late September.

As part of an economic agreement between Israel and the European Union (EU) to avoid total boycotting, labels distinguish between products made in pre-1967 Israel and products made in parts of Israel liberated during the Six Day War. Products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria are subject to higher tariffs.

While it is widely expected the trade agreement will be approved, Sarkozy's desire for consensus on the PA statehood bid among member nations - some of whom are on friendly terms with Israel - may prove unrealistic.