Israeli, French diplomats discuss peace summit proposal

Jerusalem, Feb 16 (IANS) French and Israeli diplomats on Tuesday discussed the French initiative to hold a peace summit in Paris in efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

French ambassador to Israel Patrick Masionnaive met Israeli Foreign Ministry’s political director Alon Ushpitz and informed him about the proposed summit in Jerusalem, Xinhua cited a statement by the ministry as saying.

No specific details were given as to the proposal’s contents.

The bid to hold a conference in France to restart negotiations was announced in late January by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Fabius said that if the efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians fail, his country would recognise a Palestinian state.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Israel supports direct negotiations, the Palestinians do not, drawing on a statement a Palestinian official made on Monday.

“Israel supports direct negotiations with the Palestinians but opposes any attempt to predetermine the outcome of negotiations,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon said, stating it to be the sentiment conveyed by the Israeli diplomat to his French counterpart in the meeting.

The ministry added that the concept of direct talks guided Jerusalem in the process of signing peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, referring to agreements signed in 1994 and 1979, respectively.

Nachshon then alluded to a comment made by the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki in his Japan visit on Monday, in which he said the Palestinians “will never go back and sit again in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Israel slammed the French bid to hold the summit once announced three weeks ago, whereas the Palestinian Authority welcomed it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supports negotiations without preconditions, he objects to the “ultimatum” of Paris recognising a Palestinian state if talks fail, which he charges would use as an incentive for Palestinians to blow the talks.

The Palestinians announced on their part that they “strongly” welcome the bid, with Secretary-General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Saeb Erekat saying it shows “Paris understands that the current Israeli government is a government of settlers that damages the two-state solution.”

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the “time is not yet right” for a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said he supports it, but the Palestinians do not accept Israel’s basic principles of recognising Israel as a Jewish state and the future Palestinian state should be demilitarised, adding that the regional activity of Islamic radicals is also the reason that the two-state solution is not currently feasible.

The last time Israel and the Palestinian Authority held talks took place between July 2013 and April 2014, ending without results.

Talks of renewing the peace process come amid an ongoing five-month-long wave of violence that has claimed the lives of 26 Israelis and more than 160 Palestinians.

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip territories in the 1967 Mideast War.

The Palestinians wish to establish their own state on those territories, in accordance with the two-state solution, deploring the Israeli expansion of Jewish settlements on those lands, deemed illegal by the international community.

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