PARIS − The French government took what seemed like a small but significant step toward recognizing a future Palestinian state yesterday when it received Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with all the protocol due to any head of government.

While the French government has long addressed Fayyad as “prime minister,” this is the first time he has been received here with the commensurate protocol, a Foreign Ministry official confirmed. As befitting, the itinerary for his two-day official visit was to include separate meetings with President Nicolas Sarkozy, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie and the heads of the Senate and National Assembly.

Fayyad was also scheduled to give a lecture at Sciences Po, one of France’s most prestigious universities, and to attend a high-level dinner with the European Union’s foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, and other representatives from the EU and the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers in order to discuss aid to the Palestinians. The dinner’s stated purpose, according to the Foreign Ministry, was to review progress made since the 2007 donors’ conference here, at which international donors promised $7.7 billion in aid to the Palestinians over three years.

But this time, Fillon stressed after meeting Fayyad, “we don’t want a conference that is just another session of giving aid ... We see a state as absolutely necessary and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be created this year.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero echoed these sentiments. He explained that while the money raised in 2007 allowed Fayyad to pursue “the reforms he had committed to, particularly in governance, security and financial transparency,” this time, the expectations were for an even more significant political outcome.

“Now France and other donors want to see their support rewarded with progress in the drive for Palestinian statehood,” said Valero. “This mainly economic conference ... is part of plans to create by the end of 2011 a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, in accordance with the declarations of the Quartet.”