A Palestinian man hangs a Palestinian flag atop the ruins of a mosque, during a snow storm in West Bank village of Mufagara.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday welcomed the latest French initiative to convene an international peace summit to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abbas, who has recently renewed his call for holding an international conference to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said in a speech before the 26th African Union Summit in Ethiopia, “We welcome the French initiative and affirm that the status quo cannot continue. Our people will continue to use political and legal methods, through a peaceful and popular resistance, to achieve our national rights.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Friday that his country would try to renew diplomatic efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. He threatened that France would formally recognize a Palestinian state if the diplomatic efforts failed.
Fabius, who was speaking at a conference of French diplomats in Paris, said that France hopes that the international peace summit would be attended by Israelis and Palestinians, as well as other international actors like the US, EU and Arab countries.
“France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners to preserve and achieve the two-state solution,” Fabius said.
“If this attempt to achieve a negotiated solution reaches a dead end, we will take responsibility and recognize the Palestinian state.”
In his speech, Abbas reiterated the call for convening an international conference for peace in the Middle East. He also called for the United Nations Security Council to play a larger role in the conflict.
“We are not going to return to the negotiations (with Israel) for the sake of negotiating,” Abbas said. “And we won’t remain the only ones to implement the signed agreements (with Israel). We will never accept provisional or partial solutions and we will continue to work for peace. It’s inconceivable that Israel remain a country above the international law.”
Abbas said that the Palestinians were working to fulfill their vision of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel so that they could live in peace and security. He also renewed his demand for providing international protection for the Palestinians.
Abbas accused Israel of seeking to change the status quo at the Temple Mount and warned that this could turn the political conflict into a religious one. He also accused Israel of working towards changing the character and identity of east Jerusalem.
“Peace and security in our region won’t be achieved unless the occupation and settlements end,” Abbas added. “We need to build bridges instead of walls. Our hand is extended for peace that is based on justice. We shall remain on this land.”
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also welcomed the French initiative.
“We have been calling upon the international community to have an international conference for Palestine based on international law and UN resolutions, with the parties implementing their obligations under signed agreements; including a full cessation of Israeli settlement activities within a specified timeframe and terms of reference,” Erekat said in a statement.
“We will be contacting France, as well as other international parties, to advance in that direction.”
PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani praised the French initiative, saying it marks the “beginning of the end of the American monopoly over the peace process.” He said that the Israeli government’s rejection of the initiative was “proof that it sponsors terrorism and is working toward ending the two-state solution.”
Majdalani said that the Israeli stance also shows that the Palestinians do not have a peace partner in the Israeli government.