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Israel tells France it opposes its peace initiative

Jerusalem: Israel today reiterated its firm opposition to a French plan to hold an international conference before the end of the year to restart long-stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians.

France’s envoy for the plan, Pierre Vimont, met in the morning with Israeli acting national security adviser Jacob Nagel and diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho before holding talks with the Palestinians.

The Israeli officials called for “direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority” and said “any other initiative only pushes the region further away from this process,” according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

“It was made clear to the French envoy that Israel will not participate in any international conference convened contrary to its position.”

The statement added that “promoting such a conference will make the possibility of advancing the peace process much less likely since it will allow Abu Mazen (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas) and the Palestinian Authority to continue avoiding the decision to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions.”

The Palestinians strongly support France’s international approach, saying years of negotiations with the Israelis have not ended the occupation.

Today afternoon, Abbas asked Vimont to issue invitations to the conference, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said after the meeting.

Erekat said the Israeli government had opted for “dictation rather than negotiation”.

“They want to continue with their settlement activities, torpedoing the two state solution, believing they can replace the two state solution with what we call one state, two systems.

“Status quo means apartheid and that (is) what exists out there,” he said.

Peace efforts have been at a complete standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Netanyahu has spoken out against “international diktats” and repeatedly called for direct negotiations.

He has expressed concern that President Barack Obama could break with recent US policy before leaving office in January and support — or at least not veto — a UN Security Council resolution laying out parameters for resolving the conflict.

PTI