France to hold summit on Israel, Palestinians on June 3
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France to hold summit on Israel, Palestinians on June 3

Kerry to attend Paris meet for 20 countries as French FM warns that ‘every day the situation on the ground gets worse’

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a joint press during a foreign affairs ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 19, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a joint press during a foreign affairs ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 19, 2016. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday he’s called for a planned Israeli-Palestinian peace conference to be held in Paris on June 3.

“So that everyone can attend … I have suggested that the conference initially planned for May 30 be held on June 3,” Ayrault said after talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

“We reviewed again the position concerning France’s initiative to hold a ministerial-level meeting in Paris to relaunch the Middle East peace process,” Ayrault told reporters.

This would also provide the opportunity “for Israel and the Palestinians to resume [talks] on the basis of a two-state solution,” he said.

“We are in a crisis situation and every day the situation on the ground gets worse,” he added.

Kerry said separately he would attend the peace conference, with Washington playing a key role in peace efforts over the years due to its special relationship with Israel.

The summit, set to be held in Paris, will host officials from 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to discuss the peace process. Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited, but will be included at a later conference.

Israel has rejected the French initiative, saying direct negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. The PA, however, has welcomed the plan.

Speaking to ministers ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “any other attempt only makes peace more remote and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict.”

Ayrault was in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Sunday to present the initiative to Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

He received support from the Palestinians but objections from Israel, with Netanyahu questioning French “impartiality” after Paris voted in favor of a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that did not mention Jewish ties to the holy site.

An initial target date for May 30 clashed with Kerry’s schedule by falling on the US Memorial Day holiday honoring members of the armed forces who died in combat.

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