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Netanyahu calls Paris peace conference 'rigged'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not take part in a meeting at a France-led peace conference with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, but would speak to him "directly, without preconditions"
GALI TIBBON (AFP/File)
Netanyahu has expressed concern summit could be used to present decisions to UNSC, Mid East Quartet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called this weekend's Middle East peace conference in Paris "rigged" on Thursday, with his government refusing to play any role in the meeting.

"It's a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances," Netanyahu said while meeting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende.

"This pushes peace backwards. It's not going to obligate us. It's a relic of the past. It's a last gasp of the past before the future sets in."

French President Francois Hollande meanwhile said that "only bilateral negotiations" can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the aim of the conference was to reaffirm the international community's support for the two-state solution.

"Peace will be made by the Israelis and the Palestinians and nobody else," he said.

Sunday's conference, which is set to host representatives of some 70 nations, is aimed at exploring ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

The conference, scheduled just five days before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in the White House, also comes in the wake of a rare and momentous abstention by the United States which enabled the passing of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's settlement policy.

President of France's Senate, Gérard Larcher insisted last week that his country is not preparing any "secret proposals" to be submitted to international forums after the conference.

"The Paris conference is a start and not a culmination," Larcher said.

Larcher's comments follow concerns expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that decisions taken at the January 15 summit could be presented to the UN or Middle East Quartet – made up of the UN, United States, European Union, and Russia.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed the initiative last month, saying it would be like the anti-Semitic show trial of French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus in 1894.

While the Palestinians have welcomed the French initiative, Israel has been from the beginning firmly opposed, saying it will not attend and arguing that only direct bilateral negotiations can be successful.

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

(Staff with agencies)

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