ISSN 2330-717X

Middle East Conference Ends With Warning Against Unilateral Steps


(RFE/RL) — More than 70 countries have called on Israel and the Palestinians to restate their commitment to a peace settlement and to refrain from unilateral actions.

The call was made in the final communique at a Mideast peace conference in Paris on January 15.

The statement urged both sides to “officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution” and disassociate from voices that reject this.

Palestinians welcomed the gathering and the final statement. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who refused to attend — said the conference was “rigged” against Israel.

Palestinians welcomed the gathering, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who refused to attend — said the conference is “rigged” against Israel.

The last round of direct peace talks collapsed amid acrimony in April 2014 after nine months of negotiations.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the statement amounted to a rejection of Israel’s occupation and settlement construction in captured territories. He said it sends a message that Israel “cannot achieve peace and stability” without ending its occupation.

Speaking to reporters after attending the gathering, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was significant that the final statement recognizes both the need to end Palestinian incitement and violence, as well as Israel’s security needs.

No representatives of the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump took part.

French President Francois Hollande said that “only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place.”

“The world cannot, should not, resign itself to the status quo,” he told diplomats in Paris, who came from across Europe, the Mideast, and other regions.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the international community is committed to encouraging a return to the negotiating table to broker a solution that sees both an Israeli and Palestinian state.

He said that the basis for negotiation is a return to the borders of 1967 and the recognition of the major resolutions passed at the United Nations.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive and complex issues of the conflict.

Trump promised during the election campaign to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Ayrault said moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from its current place in Tel Aviv would be a “provocation.”

He said that his country fears that an embassy move will unleash new Mideast violence.

Ahead of the Paris gathering, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas warned that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem would “not help the peace process.”

Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its capital.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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