|Sarkozy tells L'Express: "France will face up to its responsibilities on ... recognition of a Palestinian state" [EPA]
France may recognise a Palestinian state later this year Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said in an interview with a leading weekly magazine.
"If the peace process is still dead in September, France will face up to its responsibilities on the central question of recognition of a Palestinian state," Sarkozy said in an interview with L'Express published on Wednesday.
"The idea that there is still plenty of time is dangerous. Things have to be brought to a conclusion" before a UN gathering in September, he added.
Germany, meanwhile, stressed on Wednesday that it would not recognise a Palestinian state without Israel's acceptance.
Ahead of a visit by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, fresh from a Cairo reconciliation ceremony with Hamas, Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for the German government, said Berlin's position had not changed when asked about Sarkozy's remarks.
"The policy of the German government remains what Chancellor [Angela] Merkel said after talks with Israel's Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu in April: that in her view, a unilateral recognition would not contribute to the goal" of a two-state solution, he said.
US-brokered peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in September broke down over Israeli settlement activity.
The Palestinians are standing by a target date of September for declaring an independent state.
Sarkozy said European powers planned in the next few months "to relaunch the peace process along with the Americans, because Europe cannot be the main one paying for Palestine and yet remain a minor figure politically in the matter."
Merkel had said after her talks with Netanyahu last month that any German recognition of a Palestinian state would have to come in the context of mutual Israeli-Palestinian recognition.
Germany currently holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Abbas was due in Berlin later on Wednesday for talks with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle before meeting Merkel the following day.
Yet Israel called on the European Union (EU) on Wednesday to cut its funding to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas does not recognise Israel and “renounce violence” in the wake of a Palestinian unity deal.
"As the largest funders of the Palestinian Authority, you have a heavy responsibility to make it clear to the Palestinians that failure to comply with the Quartet's conditions will be met with sanctions," Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister said during a visit to Estonia, according to a statement.
The international peace-making Quartet, made up of the US, UN, EU and Russia, has said that for Hamas to be recognised as a ruling party it must renounce violence, recognise Israel and previous agreements signed between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority.
Tony Blair, the Quartet's official envoy, echoed Israel’s call for any new Palestinian government to recognise Israel.
But senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said the Quartet conditions were not practical.
A joint caretaker government is planned ahead of elections within a year and aims to end the bitter divide between the West Bank and Gaza.
"All the Europeans and the Russians and others understand and agree with us 100 per cent that all the rules of the Quartet are unworkable and don't make sense," Shaath told Israeli public radio.
"All that the Quartet needs to know is that Hamas will refrain from any violence and that Hamas will be interested in the peace process," he said.
In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees in the Bourj el-Barajneh camp welcomed Wednesday's reconciliation deal.
Speaking a few hours ahead of the signing, Kamal Amer, a Palestinian refugee, said "we hope it will be real reconciliation with pure intentions for the interest of the [Palestinian] people."
A Hamas member also saw the signing as a positive move saying "this reconciliation has to be accomplished to confront the challenges that the Palestinian people are facing, especially because the Zionists haven't offered anything to help reach any agreement."