French foreign minister to hawk Mid East talks on US trip

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is to head to the United States next week to promote France's plan for renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, his office said Friday.

Juppe is on a Middle East trip during which he said Paris is ready to host a peace conference within the next two months, an idea that drew a non-committal response from key ally Washington.

According to Juppe's official diary, he will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Monday for talks on the Arab revolts, the wars in Afghanistan and Libya and the Iranian nuclear standoff.

He will also "in particular" address the Middle East peace process.

Juppe will also meet leading think tank foreign policy experts and media pundits in Washington, before heading on to New York on Tuesday to attend United Nations talks on AIDS and meet US Jewish leaders.

On Thursday, the French minister said during a visit to the Palestinian town of Ramallah that France was ready, if asked by the "Middle East Peace Quartet", to host political talks before the end of July.

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.

The United States, which has traditionally taken the lead in Middle East peace-brokering, was non-committal about the proposal, but a State Department spokesman said: "I am not necessarily dismissing it."

There is frustration in the international community at the failure of Israel and the Palestinian leadership to agree terms for a return to the negotiating table to push forward towards a broad peace settlement.

© 2011 AFP

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