Juppe says Paris Mideast peace parley has 'a chance'

3rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

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.

After meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah on Thursday, Juppe said France was willing to transform a scheduled meeting of international donors into a broader peace conference to help relaunch stalled negotiations.

"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.

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.

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.

"We are in consultations with the parties and with the Quartet," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "I am not necessarily dismissing it."

Earlier on Friday Juppe met in a Jerusalem hotel with 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 and sentenced the following month to seven years imprisonment.

Juppe's gesture came after he met the parents of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006 and has been held in Gaza ever since.

"He said he wanted to give us the same attention (as the Shalit family) and that he wanted to meet both families," his mother Denise Hamuri, who comes from Bourg-en-Bresse in central France, told AFP.

© 2011 AFP

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