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French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group pho.(Photo by: KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU / POOL / AFP)
Israel slams EU backing of international peace conference
Foreign Ministry: Peace with the Palestinians will be achieved only through two-way, direct negotiations.
The foreign ministers of the 28-member EU threw their support Monday behind the convening of an international peace conference at the end of the year, triggering an irritated response from Israel.

“The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace with a view to an international conference planned to be held before the end of the year,” read a statement issued at the end of the meeting held in Luxembourg which – among other issues – discussed the so-called French diplomatic initiative.

The Foreign Ministry, which has come out strongly against the French initiative, issued a statement saying that “peace with the Palestinians will be achieved only through two-way, direct negotiations without preconditions.”

According to the statement, “the international conference like the one that the Foreign Affairs Council welcomed today distances peace because it enables the Palestinians to continue to avoid direct negotiations and compromise.”

This is an unfortunate step that moves backward the efforts to achieve peace which Israel is committed to, the statement continued.

The EU foreign minister’s statement also made reference to a report expected to be released in the next few days by the Mideast Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia, and UN – spelling out what if feels are the reasons for the current diplomatic logjam, and the steps needed to break it. The report is expected to slam both Israel’s policies in the West Bank, as well as Palestinian incitement and terrorism.

According to the EU foreign ministers’ statement, “Both parties to the conflict need to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a peaceful solution in order to rebuild mutual trust and create conditions for direct and meaningful negotiations aiming at ending the occupation that began in 1967, and resolving all permanent status issues.”

Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold made an indirect reference to the prospect of an international conference in remarks he made at a conference at the ministry’s Center for Policy Research marking 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreement that effectively drew the map – now unraveling – of the modern Middle East amid the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Borders, he said, need to be negotiated.

“No international fiat will work like Sykes-Picot, or the current talk about imposed solutions relating talks without preconditions.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe next week to talk about alternative ways to move the diplomatic process forward, perhaps through the convening of a regional summit under Egyptian auspices.

While Kerry did attend the meeting in Paris earlier this month that launched the French initiative, the US has not been overly enthusiastic about it, with one diplomatic official saying Washington was not keen on ceding center stage in the diplomatic process to the French.
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