JERUSALEM (AFP) - France expects Israel to make "gestures" over its construction of settlements on land the Palestinians want for a future state, President Francois Hollande said in Jerusalem on Sunday.
His remarks came just three days after the entire Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest over continued Israeli settlement building which is threatening to sabotage the United States-backed direct peace talks which began in late July.
"There are still gestures that need to be made (by both sides)," Mr Hollande said, acknowledging that Israel had already begun taking conciliatory steps by releasing 52 veteran Palestinian prisoners in line with its commitments to the peace process.
"Some gestures have already been started by Israel - the freeing of prisoners," he said.
"Other gestures are expected, especially in the area of settlements," he said in remarks to the press with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres.
Mr Hollande said he would raise the issue of "gestures" expected from the Palestinian side when he travels to Ramallah on Monday for talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
The negotiators' resignation, which has not been accepted by Mr Abbas, came two days after Israel announced its largest-ever batch of 20,000 new settler homes.
But the announcement was quickly scrapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on grounds it was creating a needless confrontation with the international community at a time when Israel was trying to get across an urgent message about stopping a nuclear Iran.
Standing alongside Mr Hollande, Mr Peres said France was playing "a central role" in efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
"I am positive that we can bridge the differences. There is no alternative to peace. Not for Israel and not for the Palestinians," he said.
"We cannot, we must not delay peace - the time has come for historic steps to achieve the solution that is agreed upon by us all - two states for two peoples, living in peace."
Previous direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed just weeks after they began in September 2010 in a bitter dispute over settlement construction.