To Israel’s dismay, EU ministers expected to back French peace push
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To Israel’s dismay, EU ministers expected to back French peace push

European states ‘ignoring’ Jerusalem’s objections despite preferring direct talks, official says ahead of meeting

French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)

The European Union’s foreign ministers are to meet Monday to vote in support of the French peace initiative, a proclamation expected to bolster Paris’s efforts to kick start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Earlier this month, representatives from 28 Arab and Western countries, the Arab League, European Union and the United Nations met in Paris to discuss ways in which the international community could help advance the Palestinian-Israel peace process.

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to attend the meeting, which aimed to lay the ground for a full-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.

The Palestinians have welcomed the French bid but Israel has said the initiative would go down in history as having “pushed peace further away.”

Israeli officials told the Haaretz daily that the Foreign Ministry failed to prevent the EU foreign ministers’ motion from being passed, and that it’s now focusing efforts on getting them to soften the announcement’s language.

France has reportedly pressed EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the other 27 foreign ministers of the EU states to throw their weight behind Paris’s initiative. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the French managed to garner the support of their EU allies to push for an international peace conference by year’s end.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014 amid mutual recriminations.

“Everyone agrees with us in principle that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are preferable,” an unnamed senior official in Jerusalem told Haaretz. “But in practice, they’re ignoring our objections to the French initiative. Most states don’t understand our position.”

The official said that the overwhelming support for Paris’s proposal stems mostly from the fact that “there’s no other initiative on the table that tries to break the freeze in the peace process.”

The summit of EU foreign ministers will be the latest in France’s efforts to bring the international community together for a peace conference. Senior French envoy Pierre Vimont, tasked with shepherding the peace effort, met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry Friday for talks on future steps he will take to prepare for a conference to revive the moribund peace process.

The Arab League said its secretary general Nabil Elaraby held similar talks with Vimont.

On Thursday, Egyptian ambassador Hazem Khairat said Cairo was willing to help create an “appropriate Palestinian environment” to facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

During a speech at the Herzliya Conference, Khairat hailed the current French peace initiative “as contributing to the framework of international action to this end.”

The ministerial meeting in Paris earlier this month, he said, “has certainly made a new step toward peace.”

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