Palestinians to Chirac: 'Vive la France'
French president hailed during visit
October 23, 1996
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac
received a hero's welcome Wednesday in the Palestinian
territories where he made the first speech to the Palestinian
legislature by a head of state.
He urged Palestinian leaders to renounce violence and respect
democratic principles as the best means for achieving
statehood. Chirac also criticized Israel, where he had spent
the previous two days, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu to live up to agreements signed by the previous
Thousands of Palestinians, including flag-waving school
children, lined the streets of self-ruled Ramallah to welcome Chirac, a vocal advocate of an independent Palestinian state.
Many chanted "Vive la France" and "Vive la Palestine."
Later, he received an equally warm welcome in Gaza. Chirac
flew on to Amman, Jordan, where he was met by King Hussein.
The French leader will go on to Lebanon and Egypt later this
"To achieve peace, Israel's legitimate desire for security
must be understood and acknowledged by all," he told the
Palestinian legislature, elected last January.
But in a speech frequently interrupted by applause, the
French president also urged Israel to halt expansion of
Jewish settlements, to stop deporting Palestinians and
demolishing their houses, and to relinquish its hold over
Arab East Jerusalem.
Afterward, a smiling Yasser Arafat was clearly grateful.
The Palestinian president used the moment to restate his call to
Israel for "honest implementation" of previous agreements.
"We are not asking for the moon," he said.
Chirac spent much of his Mideast visit lobbying for a wider
European role in the peace process, a concept rejected by
Israel but welcomed by Palestinians. "Israel feels it can
unilaterally call the shots and take the United States for
granted," said Palestinian cabinet member Hanan Ashrawi.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are deadlocked in
negotiations to implement a long-delayed Israeli troop
redeployment in the West Bank town of Hebron.
U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross, who announced he was leaving
the talks Monday but changed his mind after the talks made
headway, remained in Israel on Wednesday. A U.S. official
said it was unclear when Ross would return to Washington.
Israel went on high security alert Wednesday, fearing
guerrilla vengeance attacks in connection with the one-year
anniversary of a militant Islamic leader's assassination.
Fathi Shqaqi was gunned down October 26 on the island of
Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. His assassins were never
found, but Israel's Mossad secret service is widely believed
to have been behind the killing. Islamic Jihad has vowed to
avenge his assassination.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.
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