France: Israeli-Palestinian peace summit set for January 15
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France: Israeli-Palestinian peace summit set for January 15

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be at meeting, but Paris will brief Netanyahu, Abbas afterwards; 70 countries to attend

French President Francois Hollande (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. (AP/Thibault Camus)
French President Francois Hollande (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for photographers at the Elysee Palace, Paris, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. (AP/Thibault Camus)

PARIS, France — Representatives from approximately 70 countries will gather in France on January 15 for a conference to throw the international community’s weight behind a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, French officials said Thursday.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be present at the meeting, but France intends to invite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Paris some time afterward to brief them on the outcome of the talks, the foreign ministry said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, currently visiting the Lebanese capital Beirut, said he hoped the meeting would “relaunch” the peace process and “re-affirm the necessity of having two states.”

Netanyahu rejected a French proposal earlier this month to meet Abbas in Paris.

“We would like to invite him anyway,” a French official said.

The French have been pushing an initiative aimed at revitalizing the moribund peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. While the Palestinians have welcomed the initiative, Israel has remained critical of the plan, arguing that only bilateral negotiations can prove successful.

Since a peace summit in June in Paris officially kicked off the French initiative, three groups have been tasked with examining avenues to propel the peace process forward, according to a report in French newspaper Le Monde earlier this month.

One group has looked at building the institutions needed for the establishment of a Palestinian state; another has studied the economic incentives peace would bring for those involved, in particular for the European Union; while a third group worked on enhancing the participation of civil society in the process.

The proposals of the three groups will be examined during the summit, the report said. Paris is also reportedly examining different avenues for conveying the findings to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, either on the sidelines of the summit or by sending representatives to Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and French President Francois Hollande (right), hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and French President Francois Hollande (right), hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

France’s new envoy to Israel said two weeks ago that the conference would not contain any novel ideas on how to solve the Middle East conflict, but is mainly intended to prevent the issue from disappearing amid other global crises.

“What we propose is nothing new but [we are] trying to keep the subject on the agenda and not letting it down because there are other crises in the world,” Ambassador Hélène Le Gal said. “We continue to propose things and it’s always in a very good spirit toward Israel.”

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, France is “always keen to propose” solutions to various conflicts across the globe, Le Gal told President Reuven Rivlin earlier this month after she handed him her letter of credence, officially taking up her post.

Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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