December 15, 2009 / 6:16 AM / 8 years ago

France, Egypt urge Middle East accord in 2010

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Egypt urged Israel and the Palestinians on Monday to reach a peace agreement in 2010, and Egypt's foreign minister said he remained hopeful this could be achieved.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met French leaders in Paris to discuss prospects for peace in the Middle East and to resolve a controversy over ancient Egyptian murals.

"They should agree on a limited time frame," Aboul Gheit told Reuters on a possible restart of peace talks that have been suspended for a year. "There should be guarantees that we would not negotiate for ever, maybe involving the U.N. Security Council, maybe involving the Quartet."

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators comprises the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

"(The two presidents) saw the need for a political perspective so that negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians restart and an agreement is reached in 2010," French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

Both leaders are worried about the current impasse, the statement said.

"I am still hopeful that the U.S. will offer the parties a certain American vision, I am hopeful that the Quartet will participate ..." Aboul Gheit said.

U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to restart the peace process in his first year in office, but this looks unlikely.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a partial freeze in settlement building, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected this as insufficient -- and an Israeli cabinet minister said last week construction in the West Bank would continue.

Aboul Gheit also reiterated that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the whole city as its capital, a claim not recognised internationally.

Sarkozy also used the meeting with Mubarak to hand over one of five fragments of an ancient Egyptian tomb mural. The four other fragments in French hands were delivered last week.

France has said the Louvre museum acquired the fragments in good faith between 2000 and 2003, but their provenance was called into doubt in 2008 after the discovery of the tomb from which they were believed to have been taken.

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