Top-level peace talks for Israel and Palestinians

French President Hollande (front row, fifth from left) with ministers and leaders from about 30 countries and organisations before a meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
French President Hollande (front row, fifth from left) with ministers and leaders from about 30 countries and organisations before a meeting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Palestinian president backs French initiative but Israeli officials say it's doomed to fail

PARIS • French President Francois Hollande said yesterday that upheaval across the Middle East meant previous Israel-Palestine peacemaking efforts were no longer as relevant and major powers needed to work together to bring the two sides back to the table.

With United States efforts to broker a deal on a Palestinian state on Israel-occupied land in deep freeze for two years and Washington focused on its November presidential election, France had lobbied key players to hold a conference that would aim to break the apathy over the impasse and stir new diplomatic momentum.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has supported the initiative, Israeli officials have said it is doomed to fail and that only direct negotiations can lead to a solution.

"The discussion on the conditions for peace between Israelis and Palestinians must take into account the entire region," Mr Hollande told delegates at the opening of the conference in Paris.

"The threats and priorities have changed. The changes make it even more urgent to find a solution to the conflict, and this regional upheaval creates new obligations for peace."

France has grown frustrated over the absence of movement towards a "two-state solution" since the collapse of the last round of talks in April 2014. Yesterday, Mr Hollande urged Israel and the Palestinians to make a "courageous choice" for peace.

The gathering of about 30 ministers and organisations includes Arab and European states as well as members of the United Nations Security Council. Palestinians and Israelis are not represented in the Paris talks, which aim to lay the ground for a full-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.

The meeting's focus is to reaffirm existing international texts and resolutions that are based on achieving a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip co-existing with Israel, an outcome that some say is becoming unrealistic.

Previous attempts to coax the foes to strike a deal have come to nought. Israel has demanded tighter security measures from the Palestinians and a crackdown on militants who have attacked Israeli civilians. Mr Dore Gold, director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that the initiative would fail.

But senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said France's bid offered "a flicker of hope" for a resolution to the conflict.

President Abbas and his Fatah movement have backed the French initiative, but Hamas, the militant Islamist group which rules the Gaza Strip, and three other Palestinian factions yesterday condemned the talks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Top-level peace talks for Israel and Palestinians'. Print Edition | Subscribe