Juppe says Paris Mideast peace parley has 'a chance'
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Friday that a proposed a Middle East peace conference in Paris next month had "a chance" of taking place.
Winding up a 36-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories he met Defence Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni in Tel Aviv before leaving for home.
"I have read in the press that the Israeli government is studying our proposal, so there is no barrier," he told AFP after meeting Livni.
On Thursday Juppe said France was ready to host a Middle East peace conference before the end of July to help relaunch stalled negotiations.
After meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah on Thursday, Juppe called the current stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians "untenable," and said France was willing to transform a scheduled meeting of international donors into a broader peace conference.
"We would be prepared, on the basis of a request by the (Mideast) Quartet, to organise in Paris... before the end of July, a conference that would not be simply for the donors but a broader political conference involving the negotiation process," he said.
Fayyad welcomed the idea but Israel has yet to make a formal response.
Barak's office said the French proposal was in the "background" of his hour-long meeting with Juppe which it said in statement was held in "a friendly and positive atmosphere."
The two men "discussed matters of peace and security, the background to which is the French initiative to revive the peace process," it said.
"The defence minister stressed the security implications and the need not to engage in a peace process with Hamas as long as it does not recognise Israel or abandon the path of terror."
France has welcomed a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah, despite Israel's vocal opposition to the rapprochement.
Israel says that Hamas, a militant Islamist group sworn to its destruction, cannot be a party to peace moves.
Juppe is to head to the United States next week to promote France's plan, which has so far drawn a non-committal response from Washington.
"I am not necessarily dismissing it," a State Department spokesman said on Thursday.
Earlier on Friday in Jerusalem Juppe met the parents of a Palestinian with French nationality who has been in an Israeli jail for six years over a plot to kill a right-wing Israeli rabbi.
Salah Hamuri, 26, was arrested in March 2005 on charges of conspiring with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
The rare gesture by France's top diplomat came the day after he met the parents of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006 and has been held somewhere in Gaza ever since.
"He assured me that in all his talks with the Israelis, he had requested clemency for Salah but every time they said no," mother Denise Hamuri told AFP, saying they had discussed Shalit with him.
"He said he wanted to give us the same attention (as the Shalit family) and that he wanted to meet both families," said his mother, who comes from the town of Bourg-en-Bresse in central France.
In a letter published in the Palestinian press on Thursday, Hamuri demanded a meeting with Juppe, publicly denouncing his "double standards" in scheduling a meeting with Shalit's family only.
Shortly afterwards, Juppe agreed to meet Denise Hamuri and her husband Hassan.
Hamuri was convicted in April 2008 by an Israeli military court on charges of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to seven years behind bars.
He is due to complete his sentence on November 28, 2011.
In August 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an appeal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to release him.
© 2011 AFP