Netanyahu slams Mideast conference as it begins in Paris

By RINA BASSIST
January 15, 2017 12:45

A senior French diplomatic official indicated that the parley was also meant as a warning to Trump not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, as he has pledged to do.

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Netanyahu slams Middle East conference as it begins in Paris

Netanyahu slams Middle East conference as it begins in Paris

As a conference on Middle East peace kicked off in Paris Sunday with neither Israel nor the Palestinians participating, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the parley was “futile” and the “final palpitations” of yesterday’s world.

The summit, Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, was “coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the goal of trying to impose conditions on Israel that are not compatible with Israel's national interests.”

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Netanyahu said that the conference, which he has adamantly opposed, makes peace more distant because it hardens the Palestinian positions and pushes them further away from entering direct negotiations without preconditions.

In an apparent reference to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump this coming Friday, Netanyahu said the conference is the “final palpitations of yesterday's world. Tomorrow will look a lot different, and tomorrow is very close.”

Jerusalem is confident that the Trump administration will take a significantly different position on the Mideast diplomatic process than its predecessor.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault opened the conference in Paris, attended by delegations from some 70 countries – including US Secretary of State John Kerry – by stressing that the two-state solution is the only alternative able to to guarantee peace and security to Israel, the Palestinians and the region.

The conference, he said, aims to offer measures that would encourage the sides to relaunch negotiations and to create the optimal conditions for that. He also hinted that the conference might establish a follow-up framework. ‘’We have no aim but peace for Israel, the Palestinians, the region and all people who suffer from the crisis and violence of the conflict,’’ said Ayrault.

The conference is also seen as an effort by the international community to send a message to Trump that a two-state solution is the only way forward.

A senior French diplomatic official indicated that the parley was also meant as a warning to Trump not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, as he has pledged to do.

"It would be a unilateral decision that could escalate tensions on the ground," the official said. "It's not negligible that 70 countries recall (the need for) a two-state solution when his administration could implement controversial measures that may aggravate things."

Ayrault told the delegates that “there is no time to waste. We are not sheltered from an explosion of violence."

In a draft text of the communique obtained by The Jerusalem Post to be issued at the end of the conference, the participants will call on each side ‘’to independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two state solution and refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations, including on Jerusalem or any other final status issue.’’

Diplomatic sources said that Jerusalem was one of the main issues of disagreement at the debates over the final conference statement, and that the wording could still change before the end of the meeting. According to these sources, the Palestinians, through the representative of the Arab League, have asked to rephrase some of the text.

The draft also states that ‘’as follow-up to the conference, interested participants, expressing their readiness to review progress, resolve to meet again before the end of the year to support both sides in advancing the two state solution.’’

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Abbas did not arrive to Paris Sunday morning, contrary to information originally put out by the French Foreign Minister, and to reports that he was to meet French President Francois Hollande over the weekend.

Apparently, the decision to cancel his visit came from the Elysee (the official residence of the President of France), with President Hollande preferring to meet Abbas at a later stage. Palestinian sources said that Abbas will arrive to Paris in about two weeks, but French authorities said that no date had yet been fixed.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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