France hopes to host Mideast talks in September
France still hopes to host a conference to relaunch the Middle East peace process, but has pushed the planned date back to September, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Juppe said he hoped the Middle East peace Quartet -- the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the United States -- would next week urge Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
"If this appeal is launched, we'll move on the second phase," Juppe told the French parliament's foreign affairs committee. "Do the parties agree to get around the table and where are we on an international conference?"
Paris has suggested boosting a planned conference of donor states backing the Palestinian Authority into a full political dialogue, with the Israeli government coming on board to discuss moving towards a final settlement.
But the planned July date of such a conference is now seen as unrealistic, with traditional peace-broker the United States appearing cold to the idea and Israel failing to show any enthusiasm for the French project.
France has not given up, however, and Juppe said the donors conference looked likely to be possible in September and that Paris still hopes to turn it into a full international peace conference on the conflict.
"It seems today that a conference of donors in the first fortnight of September would be a useful idea, because the Palestinian Authority needs funds," he told the parliamentarians.
"Could this conference be the peace conference and negotiations that we envisaged? It's too soon to say," he said, adding: "You can see that we have not abandoned our initiative and that it has some chance of success."
© 2011 AFP