Blair open to French Mideast peace talks

7th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet group of world powers seeking an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, said Tuesday he was open to a French proposal to host a Middle East peace conference.

"What the French foreign minister has been saying is absolutely right in the sense that you need to put together not just the support for Palestinian statehood and institutions building, but some political momentum has to be injected back into this," he said on a visit to Oslo.

One of the ways political momentum could be injected, the former British prime minister said, would be by transforming the scheduled Paris meeting of international donors into a broader peace conference to help relaunch stalled negotiations.

"We should certainly examine that," he said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a June 2 visit to Ramallah in the Palestinian Territories that Paris was ready to host a Middle East peace conference before the end of July in a bid to kickstart stalled negotiations.

The proposal received a cool welcome from Israel and the United States, with Washington deeming such a conference premature.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has told France he is ready to attend if Israel accepts talks based on the 1967 borders.

The Quartet groups the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

Peace talks hosted by the United States last year broke down in disagreement over Israeli settlement activity. The Palestinians have set a target of having a Palestinian state recognised at the UN General Assembly in September.

France has taken the lead in recent weeks in pushing to meet the September deadline, hinting it may recognise an independent Palestinian state this year if peace talks are not back on track by then.

© 2011 AFP

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