PARIS, July 26 (Reuters) - France is raising the diplomatic status of the Palestinian Authority
in a move aimed at giving the Palestinians more legitimacy as they push for an independent state within two years.
The Palestinians have until now been represented by a delegation headed by a general delegate, but in a statement on Monday Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said they would now have a mission headed by an ambassador.
France supports the creation of a viable, democratic and independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel
by the first quarter of 2012, Kouchner said. 2010 must see a decisive push towards peace. If we wait, we will take a step back in our chance for (it).
The French decision would help lay the basis for future Palestinian institutions and guarantee the credibility of an independent state, Kouchner added.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
said on July 22 he would decide by the end of the month whether conditions are now ripe to proceed to face-to-face peace talks with Israel.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Samia Nakhoul)