France to pursue Middle East peace talks bid: minister

7th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

France will pursue efforts to organize a Middle East conference despite reservations expressed by the United States and Israel, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday.

"I have the feeling that our initiative has moved things" in the peace process, Juppe said after meetings in Israel and the United States.

"I think there will be positive developments in the next weeks," Juppe told reporters at the UN headquarters.

France has proposed holding an international conference on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in Paris in July. Direct Israel-Palestinian talks have been frozen since September after Israel refused to halt settlement building in the occupied territories.

Juppe said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has "responded favorably" to the French proposal and Israel has asked for more information on the form of the negotiations.

"The Israeli government is to give its response in the coming days," he said.

France will work with the Israelis, the Palestinians, the United States, United Nations and the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East (the United States, Russia, UN and European Union) "to see if this initiative can lead to a resumption of talks between now and the end of summer."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a cool welcome Monday to the French plan, saying there must be a willingness by the Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks.

"We strongly support a return to negotiations, but we do not think that it would be productive for there to be a conference about returning to negotiations," she said after talks with Juppe.

"She raised a certain number of reservations but she said she was ready to continue to work with us," Juppe said of the meeting, while highlighting support from the Quartet's special envoy, Tony Blair, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Abbas has said his participation in a Paris conference is conditioned on using the lines that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as the basis for negotiating future borders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel is studying the French proposal, but added he would not consider resuming negotiations with any Palestinian government that includes the Islamist movement Hamas, which last month signed a unity deal with Abbas's Fatah movement.

© 2011 AFP

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