Hollande Vows to Keep the Pressure on Iran
French President Francois Hollande affirmed Sunday that his country would keep up the pressure on Iran, including sanctions, until it is satisfied that the Islamic Republic has given up its military nuclear ambitions.
"France considers nuclear proliferation to be a menace, a danger, and in Iran particularly – a menace to Israel, to the region and clearly a menace to the entire world," he told Israeli ministers and dignitaries lining the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport in honor of his arrival.
"This is why France will not tolerate nuclear proliferation," he added. "And for France, as long as we are not certain that Iran has decided to give up on nuclear weapons, we will continue with all our demands and with sanctions."
Hollande landed in Israel Sunday with an entourage for his first official visit. Hollande will be in the Jewish state for 3 days, and Iran is likely to be the main issue under discussion in meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
AFP reports that Hollande was welcomed on the red carpet by his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and the PM, with whom he will hold talks later in the day. Hollande, who is flatlining in opinion polls at home, will also use his three-day visit to try to boost trade with Israel, which stood at 2.3 billion euros ($3 billion) in 2011.
Both national flags snapped in the wind as the delegation stood to attention for their respective anthems, the carpet lined with dark-suited Israeli ministers and dignitaries.
During the visit, he will lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, and also go to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. He will also visit the Knesset and give a speech on the Knesset plenum.
Israel has placed Hollande's visit as a matter of great importance this week, following France's support of Israel's stance on a possible Iran deal, which Netanyahu views as "a bad deal" and highly dangerous to both Israel and the world.
France has proven to be an important ally on the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons drive, as traditional allies Israel and the US have not been able to agree on a common approach to the issue. While most Israelis believe that the IDF could handle a strike against Iran on its own, international support is still crucial for formulating emergency plans for the region and preventing a possible nuclear war.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein stated upon Hollande's arrival, "it is a great honor for the Knesset to host the President of France, who is one of Israel's closest friends."
"The French President is a close friend and I am happy that he chose to address the nation of Israel from the Knesset plenum," he continued. "I believe that the visit will be very meaningful for both countries."