Summit on peace initiative in Paris today despite Israeli scepticism

Foreign ministers and senior diplomats will gather in Paris today to plan a multi-lateral conference aimed at restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

France’s President Francois Hollande will open the gathering with a diplomatic statement, where he is expected to emphasise the importance of, and current threat to, a two-state solution. Diplomats from 29 countries, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, will meet for three hours, and have an opportunity to make a brief statement. France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will then deliver an agreed upon closing statement.

In an interview with Le Monde, Ayrault said: “If we cannot break the current deadlock, we are heading for disaster”. He added that France holds “genuine concern” over Israel’s “security and its future”.

However, Dore Gold, Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said: “International conferences of the type that will take place in Paris give the Palestinians an escape route from direct negotiations with us.”

He added that face to face talks are “our aspiration”.

Israeli leaders have consistently argued that only direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians can bring about peace, and that such a multi-lateral framework will hand the PA cover to make unrealistic demands and avoid real negotiations.

Gold also indicated that Israel favours the initiative recently proposed by Egypt’s President al-Sisi, who suggested an Israel-Palestinian accord in the context of a wider regional peace.

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

Earlier this year, France’s former-Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced his country’s intention to host an international conference with the goal of agreeing the implementation of a two-state solution. An initial preparatory meeting of ministers from interested countries, but excluding Israeli and Palestinian representatives, will convene today.

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