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French leader urges Israel to show restraint

July 14, 2014

PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande is urging his partners to talk to Hamas and is pressing Israel for calm, in hopes of achieving a cease-fire in Gaza.

Hollande is trying to use France’s diplomatic weight both to stem violence in the Middle East and to keep the unrest from further fueling tensions in France, where pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with security officers at a Paris synagogue Sunday.

“Israel has the right to its security; Israel can defend itself if it is attacked; but at the same time Israel should show restraint,” Hollande said Monday in an annual televised interview marking Bastille Day, France’s national holiday.

Hollande is pushing for a cease-fire and says he is looking for all possible ways to mediate one. He said in recent days he has been trying “to convince those who could have an influence on Hamas, on the Gaza Strip, and at the same time putting pressure on Israel.”

While France has no diplomatic relations with the Hamas militant group that runs Gaza, Hollande has spoken about the recent violence with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

Hollande said he didn’t want the Israeli-Palestinian conflicted to be “imported” to France, and strongly criticized Sunday’s scuffles at a Paris synagogue. They came after a largely peaceful protest urging Western leaders to do more to press Israel to stop its strikes.

“We cannot have intrusion or efforts at intrusions into places of worship, whether they are synagogues, as happened yesterday, but I would say the same thing for mosques, for churches, or for temples,” he said. “Religions should be respected, all religions. These places of worship should be protected.”

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