Israeli-Palestinian conflict at risk of being set 'ablaze' without talks, French FM says

Fabius is on a two-day trip to the Middle East where he hopes to promote a French-led diplomatic initiative.

By REUTERS,
June 20, 2015 22:09
3 minute read.
A driver stops his vehicle in front of an IDF soldier who is aiming his weapon at demonstrators

A driver stops his vehicle in front of an IDF soldier who is aiming his weapon at demonstrators during clashes with Palestinians in Jalazoun refugee camp. (photo credit: REUTERS)

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday that the stalemate in the peace process risks setting the conflict “ablaze” and urged both sides to return to the negotiating table quickly.

He spoke in Cairo in advance of his arrival in Israel for a meeting on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

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“We have to do the maximum so that the two sides restart negotiations,” Fabius told reporters after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “We think that by doing nothing there will the twin risk of stalemate and setting [the conflict] ablaze.”

Fabius is on a two-day trip to the Middle East, where he hopes to promote a Frenchled initiative that would see the peace process relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union, and Security Council members.

These states would then work to pressure both sides to make compromises neither side wants to make alone.

Talks would be rubber- stamped by a Security Council resolution setting the negotiating parameters and establishing a time period, possibly 18 months, to complete talks.

US-led efforts to broker peace for a two-state solution collapsed in April 2014 and leaders on both sides have since been weakened politically.

But with the region’s crises worsening and Washington reassessing its options on US-Israel relations, France sees a narrow window to resume negotiations.

If it is successful, the international community, through the UN, would replace the US as the primary broker for the peace process.

There is no public US initiative to revive the peace talks, but Israel has made a number of gestures to the Palestinians in recent months, including easing travel conditions for Ramadan and a water hookup to allow the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to open.

Israel is opposed to France’s push to revive the talks through the Security Council.

Netanyahu plans to discuss the matter when the two meet. Jerusalem believes that such initiatives allow the Palestinians to believe they can resolve the conflict without negotiations.

“We are troubled by different proposals to have some sort of UNSC resolution. We see that as not advancing peace, but harming peace,” an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post. “The Palestinians do not negotiate because they believe that they can get what they want from resolutions in international bodies.”

Fabius spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry in advance of his visit to the Middle East, US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Friday.

“Both Foreign Minister Fabius and Secretary Kerry share a sense of importance about the Middle East peace process, and again, from our perspective nothing has changed about our policy of favoring a twostate solution within – and with agreements that are worked out between the two parties.”

But he ducked a question about US support for a UNSCled peace process. The US has been vocal about its support for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.

“We’ve made clear what our policy is with respect to Middle East peace,” Kirby said.

In Cairo, Fabius said, “It’s been 40 years... we need to adapt the method so that the Arabs, the Europeans, the Americans can accompany things.

“What is important is to get these talks restarted. Israel’s security has to be assured but also the rights of the Palestinians have to be recognized and in that regard when settlements move ahead, that pushes back a two-state solution,” Fabius said.

Speaking at the same news conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said he supports efforts to revive the talks given the regional geopolitical situation.

“In this context, we are worried about the peace process situation,” he said.


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