Palestinians back French meeting on Israel-Palestinian peace

AP News
Posted: Apr 21, 2016 2:15 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians said Thursday they strongly support a French initiative to hold a ministerial meeting, probably on May 30, as a first step to an international conference aimed at reviving the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Palestinian and French leaders agreed during meetings in Paris a few days ago that the French initiative should move ahead and not be jeopardized "in any way" by Palestinian efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace.

He said the draft resolution has been given to Arab ambassadors and an Arab ministerial committee will be meeting very soon to decide when to give "the green light" to circulate the draft resolution to the 15 council members.

Malki spoke after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met the current council president, China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi.

France's former foreign minister Laurent Fabius said in January that the government was planning to host an international conference to bring Israel and the Palestinians together along with their American, European and Arab partners in order "to make happen a two-state solution."

If the attempt faces a deadlock, Fabius said, France will recognize a Palestinian state.

France's Socialist government supports the idea of two states but had previously argued that it was too early for outright recognition of a Palestinian state.

Malki told reporters the Palestinians were expecting a phone call shortly from French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault confirming the date of the ministerial meeting.

"We welcome that, and we are looking forward really to help to see that such initiative and such meeting in Paris will provide the right parameters in order, really, to move forward towards the international conference," Malki said.

He said the Palestinians were not upset that neither they nor the Israelis would be invited to the initial ministerial meeting, just to later stages.

French and Israeli officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

The last peace negotiations, mediated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed in April 2014, and the period since has been fraught with conflict. A war between Gaza militants and Israel later that year killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, and there is no end in sight to the current round of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence that erupted last fall.

Israel says the current violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement. The Palestinians say it springs from frustrations over nearly half a century of Israeli occupation and failed peace efforts.