Paris, 16 Rabiul Akhir 1438/15 January 2017 (MINA) – A Mideast peace conference aimed at reviving negotiations between Israel and Palestine will start in Paris on Sunday.
In a statement to French media, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “The Paris peace conference is perhaps the last opportunity for a two-state solution,” perhaps reflecting the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president in less than a week, Anadolu Agency reported .
The conference is the first meeting to be held at this level in nine years. Although around 70 countries will attend, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced they would not participate.
The two leaders are expected to meet in Paris in the coming weeks.
Diplomatic sources say that by hosting this conference, Paris aims to send a strong message to Trump, who made controversial remarks suggesting he would be more favorable towards Israel than President Barack Obama.
The conference will also be the final summit for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that his country’s ambassador to France would represent Russia at the conference and that Moscow is ready to host Abbas and Netanyahu.
Netanyahu told French President Francois Hollande earlier this week that he was against the conference and would not recognize any decision made there.
‘Only bilateral negotiations can succeed’
Hollande said earlier that the conference aims at reviving the international community’s support for a two-state solution. “Peace will only be done by the Israelis and Palestinians, nobody else. Only bilateral negotiations can succeed,” Hollande said.
Another peace meeting brokered by the U.S. deadlocked in April 2014.
In 2014, France’s Parliament passed a draft recognition of the state of Palestine. Last January, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that France would recognize a Palestinian state if negotiations fail.
While the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has welcomed the French peace initiative, which was first proposed early last year, Israel has said it would only participate in bilateral talks with the Palestinian leadership.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas say they are open to the idea of bilateral talks but continue to blame each other for the lack of progress in the moribund peace process. (T/RS05/RS01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)