France has informed UN Security Council member states that it intends to convene an international peace conference to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts in April, with a view to brokering direct negotiations between the two sides in July, a TV report said Friday.
Israel’s Channel 2 said France has submitted a document to the 15 Security Council members, detailing plans for the July conference, to include representatives from the Middle East Quartet — the US, Russian EU and UN — and several Arab states.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week dismissed the nascent French initiative as “baffling” and bound for failure. The Obama administration has indicated that it does not believe there is a possibility of achieving a peace accord in its remaining time in office, but has stressed its determination to keep alive possibilities of a two-state solution.
Friday’s TV report said that Secretary of State John Kerry, who is expected in Amman, Jordan on Saturday for talks with King Abdullah, would “apparently” meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well.
France has for months been preparing to hold a conference that would bring together the two parties and their American, European and Arab partners in order to revive the peace process. France has also warned that if its peace efforts fail, it will recognize a Palestinian state.
In Germany on Tuesday, Netanyahu said this threat “ensures that the conference will fail, because if the Palestinians know their claim will be accepted in Europe…they will not do anything.”
The Palestinians have welcomed the French proposal, but the conference idea has not been generating much enthusiasm in the international community, which is struggling to cope with far deadlier Middle East conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said France’s ambassador to Israel met a ministry official Tuesday to set out details of the planned conference.
Washington, which has traditionally acted as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has not taken a public position on the French plan.
The last peace negotiations, mediated by Kerry, collapsed in April 2014, and the period since has been fraught with conflict. Since last fall, a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence has seen the killings of some 30 Israelis — the latest being Tuvia Yanai Weissman, a 21-year-old off-duty IDF soldier, who was stabbed to death by two Palestinian teenagers in a West Bank supermarket on Thursday.
Some 160 Palestinians have died in the same period, about three-quarters of them in the course of attacking Israelis.