later this month, the Paris region will sign a co-operation agreement with the Palestinian district of East Jerusalem.
It will be only the second such deal between France’s most populous region and a Middle Eastern city; the first such deal was struck with Beirut.
The Paris region’s vice president for international affairs, Roberto Romero, claimed, however, that the initiative had not been driven by pro-Palestinian politics.
“The region already has many co-operation partnerships with Israel, in research and technology, for example. We’ve had none with the Palestinian Authority. This is merely a way to help the population. Our goal isn’t to bring political support to the Palestinian Authority,” said Mr Romero, who is a member of the Socialist party.
Other French parties, however, hope the deal will give the Palestinians a political boost. The Greens talk of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, and are in favour of a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. They have also pressed the Paris region to review co-operation deals with Israel.
The Paris region does not plan to work with Jerusalem’s Israeli municipal authorities, but with local Palestinian NGOs instead. Despite this, Mr Romero said, Israel has not spoken out against the deal.
The co-operation deal will cover education projects, libraries, exchange programmes and social, cultural and health missions. The cost, around 300,000 euros per year, was the main reason given by the opposition for opposing the agreement. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party was the only one to vote against the plan.