US noncommittal on French peace talks offer

2nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States was noncommittal Thursday over a French proposal to host a Middle East peace conference before the end of July to help relaunch stalled negotiations.

"The ultimate goal is to get them (Israelis and Palestinians) back to the negotiating table," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters when asked if there was room for a French initiative.

"And we're looking at a variety of ways to do that," Toner said without saying whether Washington was considering the French proposal.

Asked if the US preference was to continue brokering the peace process, he replied: "I'm not saying that it necessarily needs to be US.

"But I think we're in consultation right now with both the parties and the Quartet in trying to find the best way forward. And, again, the ultimate goal is to get them back to the negotiating table," he said

The Quartet -- made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- guides the Middle East peace process with a roadmap that calls for a Palestinian state living next to a secure Israel.

Still, without directly naming the French proposal, Toner said, "I am not necessarily dismissing it."

During a visit to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday France is ready to host a Middle East peace conference before the end of July.

Juppe described the current stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians as "untenable," and said France was willing to transform a July meeting of international donors into a broader peace conference.

© 2011 AFP

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