REUTERS - France's foreign minister said on Tuesday that Paris should recognize a Palestinian state only if doing so would help achieve peace, not as a symbolic gesture.
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However, if negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel fail, Paris "would not shirk its responsibilities" but would recognize the Palestinian state, the minister, Laurent Fabius, said in answer to a question in parliament.
His remarks came a day after British lawmakers voted to recognize Palestine. Their vote will not alter government policy, but it does carry symbolic value as Palestinians pursue international recognition.
"From the moment when we say that there are two states, there will be recognition of a Palestinian state. That goes without saying, it's logical," Fabius said.
"The only question are the modalities and how to do it in the most efficient way. What we want is not something symbolic, but something that is useful for peace."
Like Britain, France does not classify Palestine as a state. But it says it could extend recognition if it believed doing so would help promote peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
It has said that when the time comes it will recognize a Palestinian state. It has also supported Palestine's membership of the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO and its non-member observer country status at the United Nations.
The British vote came just as Sweden's new center-left government was preparing to officially recognize Palestine, a move Israel condemned.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Sunday for a renewed commitment to achieving Middle East peace, saying a lasting deal between Israel, the Palestinians and all their neighbors was possible.
The last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks foundered in April over Israeli objections to a Palestinian political unity pact that included the Islamist Hamas movement and over Palestinian opposition to Israeli settlement expansion.
"Until now the prevailing idea was that recognition should be linked to the negotiations," Fabius said. "But if negotiations were to prove impossible or have no conclusion, then France will naturally have to assume its responsibilities."