France moots June conference on Mideast peace

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

France may turn a donors' conference on a future Palestinian state set for June into a political meeting to relaunch the stalled Middle East peace process, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Wednesday.

"Our idea would be to use the donors' conference meeting at the end of June to hold a real political conference and restart the dialogue," Juppe told the French parliament's foreign affairs committee.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks in Paris on Thursday.

"How much will we be able to get him to evolve? You know the man, his character, his determination," Juppe said of Netanyahu, playing down the chances of a rapid breakthrough in the peace process.

Netanyahu is visiting Paris and London to counter Palestinian plans to seek United Nations recognition of their statehood, as peace talks remain mired in a stalemate over the issue of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Negotiations between the two sides have been on hold since late September, when a 10-month, partial Israeli settlement freeze expired and Netanyahu refused to renew it, allowing new developments to begin.

"On the American side, there are today few initiatives," Juppe said.

"Our idea is to try a last resort initiative, so that, in the month of September, when the question of recognising (a Palestinian state) is raised, we can say we tried everything."

Sarkozy implied in an interview with L'Express news weekly on Wednesday that France could recognise a Palestinian state later this year if the peace process cannot be restarted.

"If the peace process resumes during the summer, France will say that you have to leave the protagonists to talk without forcing the calendar," Sarkozy told the news weekly.

"If, on the other hand, the peace process is still a dead letter in September, France will assume its responsibilities on the central issue of recognising a Palestinian state."

The Palestinians have insisted they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for a future state, and Israel has attracted fierce international criticism for its settlement policy.

© 2011 AFP

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