France-Palestinians: 40 years of special relations

AFP , Tuesday 2 Dec 2014

Below are the 10 key dates in relations between the Palestinians and France, the first western state to stress the need to recognise Palestinians' rights at the United Nations in 1970.


- October 21, 1974: French foreign minister Jean Sauvagnargues becomes the first member of a western government to meet the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, during a visit to Beirut.


- October 31, 1975: The PLO is allowed to open an information and liaison office in Paris. The office is upgraded to the level of Palestinian Delegation in 1989, and Palestinian Mission in 2010.


- March 4, 1982: Addressing the Israeli parliament, French President Francois Mitterrand defends the principle of a Palestinian state. In 1980, with Paris's help, a summit between the then European Economic Community and the Palestinians in Venice had affirmed the need to involve the PLO in the peace process.


- August 1982: France takes part in the evacuation by sea of Arafat and Palestinian forces holed up in neighbourhoods in Beirut where they are surrounded by the Israeli army.

In November 1983, France takes part in a new operation to evacuate the Palestinian leader, who is surrounded with his supporters in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, by his Palestinian adversaries and the Syrian army.


- May 2-3, 1989: Mitterrand, acknowledging the implicit recognition of the existence of Israel in the proclamation of an independent state of Palestine in November 1988, hosts Arafat for his first visit to France. Arafat says in French that the PLO charter, adopted in 1964 and amended in 1968, and which implicitly demands the destruction of Israel, is "null and void".


- October 29, 2004: French President Jacques Chirac allows Arafat, who has been confined in his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank by the Israeli army for the past three years, to come to France for medical treatment after a sudden decline in his health. After his death on November 11, Paris pays him a tribute worthy of a head of state.


- November 17-18, 2013: Francois Hollande, on a visit to the Middle East, calls for a two-state solution in peace talks, a halt by Israel to building settlements in the occupied territories and for sharing Jerusalem as capital of the two states.


- November 8, 2014: Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says that France will have to "face up to its responsibilities" if peace negotiations do not succeed. There will be "at a moment -- it's obvious -- recognition of the State of Palestine by France... The question is when and how?"


- November 28, 2014: Fabius urges the international community to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within two years and says that France is prepared to host international talks in a bid to push forward a drive for peace.


- December 2, 2014: French lawmakers vote in favour of recognising Palestine as a state. The highly symbolic vote in the lower house National Assembly is non-binding on French government policy.

Israel's French embassy warns the vote will harm the peace process, while the Palestinian leadership urges France to act on it.

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