France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. He told the international press, however, that Israel and the Palestinian officials would not be invited to the meeting, which will take place in Paris.
Ayrault said the aim was to prepare an international summit in the second half of 2016, which would include the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“The two sides are further apart than ever,” he admitted. But he said: “There is no other solution to the conflict than establishing two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, living side by side in peace and safety with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
“We cannot do nothing,” Ayrault said. “We have to act before it’s too late.” He added: “I am not naive, I am perfectly sincere… There is no alternative — the other option is fatalism and I reject that.”
He said the discussions would be based on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative — approved by the Arab League but not Israel — which called on the Jewish state to withdraw from Palestinian territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem, in exchange for a normalization of ties with Arab countries. It also outlined the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and envisaged a “just solution” of the refugee issue.
“In Israel, the government is more and more ambiguous on the issue of a two-state solution and the Palestinians are more and more divided,” Ayrault said. “We have to explain to the Israelis that settlement activity is a dangerous process and that it puts their own security in danger.”
The initiative was announced in February by Ayrault’s predecessor Laurent Fabius. A former French ambassador to Washington, Pierre Vimont, has been given the job of preparing the meetings.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered a previous round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in April 2014, gave the French proposal a guarded welcome when he visited Paris in March.
“Not any one country or one person can resolve this. This is going to require the global community, it will require international support,” Kerry said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told French President Francois Hollande during a meeting last Friday night in Paris that the Palestinians fully back France’s initiative.
“France plays an important role in efforts to establish a fair, comprehensive and durable peace in accordance with international resolutions,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said after the two met.
Peace efforts have been at a complete standstill since a US initiative collapsed two years ago.
Israel is in the midst of a wave of Palestinian stabbing, car-ramming, and shooting attacks that has killed 29 Israelis and 4 foreign nationals since October of last year. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to the Israeli authorities. On Monday, a Hamas terrorist carried out a suicide attack on a bus in Jerusalem, injuring 20 people.
Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly expressed interest in meeting with each other over the last several weeks, but neither side has made a public move to jump-start negotiations.
AFP contributed to this report