French President Francois Hollande on Sunday said the world cannot impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a lasting peace accord can only be clinched through direct talks.
Addressing a Paris peace conference in Paris with the representatives of 70 countries in attendance, Hollande also warned the international community not to forsake peace efforts as it focuses on the fight against the Islamic State, as the region cannot be stabilized without a resolution to the “oldest conflict in the Middle East.”
The French president noted in his address to diplomats that the “fight against ISIS has occupied the international community.”
“But how can you think that the Middle East can be stabilized if you don’t deal with its oldest conflict? The world must not resign itself to the status quo,” said the French president.
Warning that the two-state solution is “threatened” by settlements, a dwindling peace camp, and terrorism, the French president emphasized that the goal of the conference was to reaffirm the global commitment to peace rather than impose a deal.
“The two-state solution is still the objective of international community for the future. With this conference I wanted to inscribe the two-state solution on the international agenda.
We do not want to impose any solutions… as some argued to dismiss our effort,” he said, apparently referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It can only come after direct negotiations.”
As the multinational conference to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts convened in Paris, Netanyahu again dismissed the French initiative, calling it a “pointless” endeavor that was inherently anti-Israel.
“The conference that is convening today in Paris is a pointless conference,” he told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“It was coordinated by the French and the Palestinians and aims to force conditions on Israel that conflict with our national interests,” the prime minister said.
Unlike Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the bid to reaffirm global support for a two-state solution, and will meet Hollande in the coming weeks to be briefed on the conference outcome, diplomats said last week.
Paris officials said that Netanyahu declined a similar invitation.
Neither Israel nor the PA sent representatives to the parley.
On Friday, Abbas called the conference the last chance for a two-state solution, according to remarks published by French daily Le Figaro.
Earlier on Sunday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would result in “extremely serious consequences.”
Ayrault told French TV he believed US President-elect Donald Trump would find it “impossible” to fulfill the pledge he made during his campaign to transfer the embassy.
“When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace,” Ayrault said.
Trump hasn’t yet laid out a clear Mideast policy, but has signaled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s right than previous US administrations.
Agencies contributed to this report.