France’s Fabius says Gaza ceasefire is ‘absolute priority’

Foreign ministers in Vienna for new round of nuclear talks with Iran


French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said today securing a ceasefire for the Gaza Strip and preventing an escalation of the latest outbreak of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians was a top priority for France.

“In Gaza and Israel the absolute priority is a ceasefire,” Mr Fabius told reporters in Vienna ahead of a side discussion on the latest outbreak of hostilities in Gaza with US secretary of state John Kerry, British foreign secretary William Hague and German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“In this context of a dangerous escalation, France asks for a return to the 2012 ceasefire,” he added.

The foreign ministers are in the Austrian capital for a new round of nuclear talks with Iran.

Mr Kerry said this morning there were major differences between Iran and six world powers negotiating on Tehran’s nuclear programme, remarks that were echoed by a senior Iranian negotiator.

“Obviously we have some very significant gaps still, so we need to see if we can make some progress,” Mr Kerry said ahead of meetings on Iran with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other European foreign ministers.

Mr Kerry’s sentiments were echoed by a senior Iranian negotiator, Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi, who was quoted by state television as saying that disputes over all major and important issues still remain. “We have not been able to narrow the gaps on major issues and it is not clear whether we can do it.”