French FM warns of impending disaster if Israeli-Palestinian deadlock not broken
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French FM warns of impending disaster if Israeli-Palestinian deadlock not broken

Day ahead of Paris peace summit, Jean-Marc Ayrault says there is genuine concern for Israel amid changing Mideast context

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 warned that if upcoming French efforts to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process did not bear fruit, the region was “heading for disaster.”

In an interview with the French paper Le Monde a day ahead of a Paris summit on restarting peace talks, Ayrault said that disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly said that the only way forward was through direct negotiations, “can be overcome” and that at the moment no such negotiations exist anyway.

“If we cannot break the current deadlock, we are heading for disaster. The context has changed: increased terrorism is having an impact, including in this part of the region. This is a danger for Israel. France is a friend of Israel’s and there is currently genuine concern over its security and its future,” Ayrault said.

Asked what the French had to offer after a US-brokered attempt for talks failed in 2014, Ayrault said that “a new environment must be created on an international scale to tell the two parties: we are not going to negotiate on your behalf, as that is your responsibility as Israelis and Palestinians, but we do want to help you.”

“The last international conference on this issue was in Annapolis nine years ago. Our ambition is thus to once again mobilize the international community,” he said.

While the Palestinians have welcomed the Paris effort, Israel has rejected it.

Earlier Thursday, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that France’s bid to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks was doomed, and compared it to a 1916 colonial effort to carve up the Middle East.

Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Dore Gold (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

“This effort utterly failed then and will completely fail today,” Dore Gold told journalists in Jerusalem, referring to the Sykes-Picot agreement to draw up the region’s borders.

“The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow us to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them,” Gold said.

“We believe the Arab states would give backing to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” he added. “Therefore we prefer a Middle Eastern process and not a process that somebody is trying to create in Paris.”

British diplomat Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot of France drew the borders of a new Middle East in May 1916 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

“It was at the apex of the era of colonialism in our area,” Gold said. “Their effort failed as we see today in the deserts of Iraq and Syria.”

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be represented in Paris at Friday’s talks, which aim to lay the ground for a fully-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.

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