Dozens Of Diplomats Gather In Paris For Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the peace conference in Paris on Sunday. Foreign ministers and representatives from about 70 countries are seeking to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images


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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the peace conference in Paris on Sunday. Foreign ministers and representatives from about 70 countries are seeking to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign Ministers and other diplomats from some 70 different countries have descended on Paris, with the intent to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The summit, which opened Sunday without leaders from either side of the conflict, is expected to urge the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“We are here to reiterate strongly that the two-state solution is the only one possible,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in his opening remarks to top envoys at the conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to attend, decrying the conference as biased against Israel from the outset.

“It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances,” he said Thursday, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

French President Francois Hollande will be addressing the diplomatic gathering, which includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is making his final international visits in that role.

“Sunday’s meeting marks the bitter, disappointing end of eight years of failed Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy,” NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports for our Newscast unit. “But he’s participating to try to ensure America’s continued interest in a two-state solution is preserved.”

The U.S. State Department has said he is attending to make sure that “whatever happens in this conference is constructive and balanced,” the BBC reports.

It also may be meant as a message to Kerry’s successors, the diplomatic team of President-elect Donald Trump, who is set to be inaugurated Friday. Trump has given indications that he is supportive of settlements Israelis have established in land the country captured in 1967, which have been central point of contention in peace negotiations.

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Last month, Kerry delivered a speech condemning Jewish settlements in the West Bank and affirming his own support for a two-state solution. The United States also declined to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Jewish settlement activity.

Trump’s incoming administration is expected to adopt a decidedly different tack, however. The man he has picked to be the next ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has said he hopes to serve his position from a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem — a city in which both sides have lain claims. That move would be seen as a de facto recognition of the city as Israeli’s capital.

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned against such a move, saying Saturday that relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would cause peace prospects to suffer.

Yet statements like these from Trump and his proposed team have encouraged Netanyahu, who referred to them in his comments condemning Sunday’s conference.

“It’s a relic of the past,” Netanyahu said. “It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.”

Representatives from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are attending the gathering, which will also urge both sides to avoid taking “unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations,” according to the BBC.

Skepticism persists that anything will come of Sunday’s summit, given the absence of leaders from both sides. But, as Ayrault said in his address, the goal of the French hosts is to make a first step toward reopening peace talks, even if it’s a small one.

“The parties are very, very far apart,” Ayrault said, “and the goal is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/15/509939635/dozens-of-diplomats-gather-in-paris-for-israel-palestinian-peace-talks?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=news

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