Israel to miss French peace conference, wants direct talks

AP News
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Posted: Nov 07, 2016 1:35 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel will not attend an international French-sponsored conference aimed at resolving the conflict with the Palestinians — reiterating his position that direct talks should resume between the sides.

Netanyahu's emissaries stated his position on peace talks to French Envoy Pierre Vimont on Monday, his office said in a statement.

It said they told Vimont "true progress in the peace process ... will come only through direct negotiations ... any other initiative only pushes the region further away from this process."

Vimont was told that Israel will not participate in the French conference scheduled for the end of the year, it said.

U.S.-mediated peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet for direct negotiations.

Abbas has refused unless Israel ends settlement construction and conducts a prisoner release that Netanyahu canceled.

The Palestinians have welcomed the French proposal.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met with Vimont later in the day.

"We were officially informed by the French envoy that France intends to issue their invitations for an international conference in December," Erekat said after the meeting. "We stand shoulder to shoulder with France, with all other nations on earth that are aiming to achieve peace through preserving the two-state solution," he said.