France proposes peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians

France proposes peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians

Benjamin Netanyahu with Mahmoud Abbas
Benjamin Netanyahu with Mahmoud Abbas
Netanyahu Abbas
Netanyahu and Abbas at a rare meeting

France has presented Israel and the Palestinians with a proposal for an international peace conference, both sides have confirmed.

The proposal, however, has received a cool response fromIsrael, casting doubt on the first push for peace in nearly two years.

France has for months been preparing to hold a conference that would bring together the two parties and their American, European and Arab partners in order to revive the peace process.

While the Palestinians welcomed the proposal, the conference does not seem to be generating much enthusiasm from Israel or the international community, which is struggling to cope with far deadlier Middle East conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Palestinian official Ahmad Majdalani said France presented general ideas but no specifics about its plan, but he said the Palestinians support the initiative.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said France’s ambassador toIsrael met a ministry official on Tuesday but declined to provide details or discuss whether Israel would participate.

In a statement, Mr Nahshon reiterated Israel’s support for “direct negotiations with the Palestinians”, adding that Israel “opposes attempts to predetermine the outcome of negotiations”.

Washington, which has traditionally acted as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has not taken a public position on the French plan and appears to be waiting to hear more details.

The last peace negotiations, mediated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed in April 2014 and the period since has been fraught with conflict.

A war between Gaza militants and Israel later that year killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and there is no end in sight to the current round of deadly violence that erupted last autumn.

France has warned that if its peace efforts fail, it will recognise a Palestinian state.

Israel says that would provide an incentive for the Palestinians to refuse to compromise and officials insist a Palestinian state can only come about through direct negotiations.

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