France back at Mid-East top table

After a difficult two weeks in French-Israeli relations, the Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, yesterday said there was "no contradiction" between French and Israeli policies and Israel was prepared to help with reconstruction in Lebanon. He also reiterated that Israel had no "territorial or political ambitions in Lebanon". Mr Peres was speaking after lunching with President Jacques Chirac at the Elysee during a stopover in Paris.

Although it had been long planned, the encounter signalled the intention to mend fences and amounted also to mutual recognition that France had won a foothold, however small, in the US-dominated Middle East peace process.

In another move that may have been designed to improve France's image in Israel, Mr Peres said France recently broke up a group, linked to the Iranian-sponsored Hizbollah organisation, that was planning attacks on Israeli targets in Paris. Neither Israeli nor French officials would confirm this or give details. Until that disclosure on Monday, recent exchanges had been cool. Israeli ministers were less than accommodating to Mr Chirac's special envoy and Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, during his 12-day Middle East shuttle.

On arrival in Tel Aviv, he was told it was "too early" for a peace mission; as he arrived for a second attempt, officials said there were too many people involved in too many initiatives.

Mr Chirac's visit to Lebanon last month, when he had called for a "free and independent Lebanon", the strength of French condemnation of Israeli action in southern Lebanon, including the shelling of Qana, and the speed with which Mr Chirac sent Mr de Charette to Lebanon in a peace initiative - later scaled down to a "goodwill mission" - all predisposed Israel to regard France as ill-equipped to play the role of honest broker.

Now that France has a place alongside Syria, Lebanon and the US in the "surveillance group" set up to guarantee the ceasefire in southern Lebanon, both have an interest in restoring some civility. France was also gratified by the response of Lebanon, whose President, Elias Hrawi, stopped in Paris on Tuesday and paid tribute to France's role and to Mr Chirac in particular for his "courageous initiative".

The visits by Mr Hrawi and Mr Peres on successive days and within less than a week of the truce agreement allowed officials and commentators to speak of a return of France to Middle East diplomacy, where it regards its ties with Lebanon and its channels to Syria - and to a lesser extent Iran and Iraq - as unique assets.

While France conceded that US mediation was always going to be essential to any truce deal, Mr de Charette insisted on his return that "80 per cent of the text of the ceasefire agreement derived from ideas set out by France from the beginning".

This, however, is not the official US view, or at least not the view being presented for domestic pre-election consumption in Washington.

On Tuesday the US State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns, rebutted France's claim of an "80-per-cent" contribution. "It is perfectly clear to all those who travelled with the Secretary of State," he said, "that the great success of the ceasefire accord is largely due to the American initiative. The text of the negotiation document was drawn from an American draft; the ideas were American ideas."

Officials in Paris and Washington have denied reports of friction between Mr de Charette and the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, during their peace missions, insisting that they were in close contact throughout and effectively working together.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence