Palestinian official says French peace summit to go on 'with or without Israel'
ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)
A Palestinian official on Saturday said that an international conference led by France that aims to jump start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would take place "whether the Israeli government consents or not."
Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee and associate of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, made the remarks in an interview with Palestinian newspaper Donia Al-Watan.
Majdalani added that French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault would soon visit the region in preparation for the summit, set to be held in Paris in December.
Israeli officials on Monday reiterated to France that Israel would not participate in such a conference on the grounds that it enables the Palestinians to avoid direct negotiations without preconditions. A statement from the Prime Minister's Office called on France not to promote such an initiative.
"Israel will not take part in an international summit that will be convened against its stance," the statement said. "Israel expects France not to promote a summit or any other moves opposing Israel's official stance," the statement concluded.
The Palestinians strongly support France's international approach to reviving stalled peace talks, saying years of negotiations with the Israelis have not ended the occupation.
Speaking during an official visit to Turkmenistan on Monday, Abbas said he was planning on sending a delegation to attend the summit.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said following a meeting with France's special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Pierre Vimont, that Abbas had requested invitations to the conference be issued.
"We have encouraged France to go ahead with its initiative and supported its efforts to have a conference before the end of the year," he said in a statement. "Israel should not be given the chance to sabotage such an international initiative."
On June 3, France hosted an international summit with representatives from 28 countries, the Arab League, European Union and United Nations discussing ways in which the international community could "help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace."
Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to the talks in the French capital.
Since the June 3 summit, no progress on peace talks has been made.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
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