France's Middle East envoy Pierre Vimont (L) meets with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on March 15, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
France intends to push ahead with an international Mideast peace conference despite Israel’s objections and the election of Donald Trump as US president, a French Foreign Ministry representative said on Thursday.
A report in Maariv on Thursday said that French President François Hollande, attending the Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, told its correspondent that “the chances of holding the peace conference in Paris are not good.”
According to the paper, Hollande attributed this to Trump’s election victory, saying that the outgoing US administration would not participate in the conference.
“But the problem is not only the canceling of the conference,” the paper quoted Hollande as saying. “If Trump keeps to his word, the international community cannot come together to support the peace process. The very commitment to peace and the future of the process will be in danger.”
The Elysee issued a statement denying that Hollande ever made the comments attributed to him.
“The president didn’t give any interview and only had a background discussion with journalists during his stay in Marrakech. On this occasion, he mentioned the areas of uncertainty to be clarified after the American elections, among which [was included] the Middle East,” the statement read.
At the daily press briefing in the French Foreign Ministry, the representative said that Hollande reaffirmed in his speech to the UN in September that “our goal is to convene an international conference in order to help relaunch the Middle East peace process. We are working closely with our partners and in collaboration with the parties to that end.”
Jerusalem made clear to French special envoy Pierre Vimont recently that it had no intention of attending the conference, saying that real progress will only come through direct negotiations.
A senior Western diplomat who recently met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an international conference dedicated to the Israeli- Palestinians conflict without Israel’s presence was doomed to fail. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman went a step further on Wednesday, saying that such a parley without Israel would be meaningless, even “grotesque.”