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UPDATE - Middle East peace summit launched in Paris

UPDATE - Middle East peace summit launched in Paris
Summit participants, which did not include Israelis or Palestinians, reaffirm that 2-state solution is only way forward

UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM FRENCH FM, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF, ADDS JOINT STATEMENT

PARIS (AA) - Participants of a French initiative aiming at reviving the Israel-Palestine peace process reaffirmed in Paris on Friday that a two-state solution was the only way forward in resolving the decades-long dispute.

The day-long meeting included more than 30 officials from the Middle East Quartet of the UN, EU, Russia and the U.S., as well as the Arab League and other states, but did not include representatives from Israel or Palestine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were also among those present in the meeting, which Israel and Hamas both rejected.

According to the joint statement released at the end of the summit Friday, participants “reaffirmed that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.”

They raised the alarm on “continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity,” which “effect dangerously… the prospects for a two-state solution,” the statement said.

The summit also called on both parties to demonstrate “a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order … to create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation … and resolving all permanent status issues through direct negotiations based on resolutions 242 [1967], 338 [1973].”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc warned at a press conference following the summit that the two-state solution was in danger.

“The two-state solution is in great danger. We are approaching a point of no return,” he said.

“It is urgent to rebuild confidence…Israelis and Palestinians, only they will be able to make peace,” he said, adding that the summit would work on “providing a framework and support for the holding of direct negotiations between the parties.”

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, earlier told a press conference that "the policy of settlement expansion and demolitions, violence and incitement tells us very clearly that the perspective that Oslo [accords] opened up is seriously at risk of fading away.”

In his opening speech, French President Francois Hollande said progress had already been made but had fallen short of creating peace.

“Violence is growing and hope is fading - that's why we want to try and revive the peace process,” Hollande told delegates, warning against a “diplomatic vacuum [that] will be filled by extremism and terror.”

He recognized that only Israel and Palestine could take the “brave step towards peace” and added: “The discussion on the conditions for peace between Israelis and Palestinians must take into account the entire region.”

The two sides last met in April 2014 but talks broke up with the Palestinians accusing Israel of breaking a prisoner release deal and Tel Aviv refusing to continue after the possibility of a Palestinian unity government including Hamas, which Israel calls a terrorist group, was raised.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Ayrault said the conference was necessary because direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians “does not work.”

In remarks made to the France Info radio station, he said: “Today, everything is blocked... We do not want to take action instead of the Palestinians and Israelis but we want to help them.”

The French initiative began in January when France said it would recognize an independent Palestinian state if no headway was made in the peace process. The statement was retracted following Israeli objections.

Israel says the summit could distract from negotiations with Palestine.

Since the early 1990s, numerous peace talks have failed to resolve the differences between Israel and Palestine. The most problematic of these include the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian statehood.


source: News Feed
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