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Israel stresses opposition to French peace initiative

AFP , Thursday 28 Apr 2016
File photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: AFP)

Israel on Thursday reiterated its opposition to a planned French peace conference, calling instead for direct and unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians.

"The best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

"Israel is ready to begin them immediately without preconditions. Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from direct negotiations."

The statement comes after French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced Paris would organise a ministerial meeting on May 30, ahead of a potential peace conference.

The proposal has been welcomed by the Palestinians, who suspended a planned UN resolution condemning Israeli illegal settlements to focus on the bid.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas encouraged support for the French proposal on a recent tour of Europe.

But Israel has consistently argued that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides, rather than international forums.

The last serious attempt at peace negotiations broke down two years ago.

The May 30 meeting will include representatives from 20 countries, plus the European Union and the United Nations, but not the Israelis or Palestinians.

Paris is currently preparing invitations for the event, diplomatic sources said.

If successful, the meeting would lead to an international conference later this year in the presence of both Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

Israel has not explicitly ruled out involvement in the conference.

The French attempt comes at a time of high tensions as the wave of repression by Israeli occupation forces has killed 203 Palestinians and 28 Israelis since last October,.

Peace talks have been frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014, after a year of intense shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online.

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