Palestinians welcome Paris peace bid as ‘timely, realistic’

After meeting French coordinator in Ramallah, PA official urges a skeptical Israel to ‘fully support’ renewed efforts

France's Middle East envoy Pierre Vimont meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 15, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
France's Middle East envoy Pierre Vimont meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 15, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian leaders expressed hope for a new push for peace Tuesday, in talks with a French envoy who faced skepticism in meetings with Israeli officials.

Pierre Vimont, France’s point man on efforts to hold an international peace conference by the summer, held talks in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Ryiad al-Malki and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

“The French ideas are timely, the French ideas are realistic and the French ideas are the only thing in town, and those who care about peace between Palestinians and Israelis must fully support the French ideas,” Erekat said.

France launched the effort earlier this year to host an international conference to revive peace talks. Then foreign minister Laurent Fabius initially vowed to recognize a Palestinian state if talks failed, but his successor,Jean-Marc Ayrault, said last week that the recognition would not be automatic.

The summit is scheduled to take place in June or July, over Israeli complaints that peace negotiations should take the form of direct talks.

Vimont on Monday met Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians and sought to “understand the initiative’s logic” during talks with Vimont.

“The Israeli side emphasized the importance of direct, bilateral negotiations, with no prior conditions between the parties,” he said.

Netanyahu had rejected Fabius’s ultimatum as counterproductive, arguing that the confab was doomed to fail since the Palestinians were being told they would gain recognition even if no results were achieved. Still, Jerusalem has said it would study the framework for the conference when official invitations are sent out and would carefully weigh its response.

World powers including US, Russia, China, France the UK, as well as the “Arab quartet,” Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt will attend an April meeting to set the agenda for the summer conference. Neither Israeli or Palestinian officials will attend that meeting.

The French peace initiative comes amid a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence that has killed 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals since October of last year. Nearly 190 Palestinians have also been killed during that same time, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to Israel.

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