Paris Mideast peace talks unlikely: Palestinian envoy

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The top Palestinian envoy to France said Thursday a proposed July peace conference in Paris would be "useless" since Israel will not attend, shying away over the issue of settlements.

"I myself doubt that this conference will take place because I doubt that the Israelis will accept the French offer" to host talks, said Hael Al-Fahoum, head of the Palestinian mission to France.

He said he did not expect the Israelis would agree to attend because they would come under pressure to freeze settlements in Palestinian areas, an issue that scuppered the last round of US-hosted direct peace talks in September.

"I don't think the Americans will come along without the Israelis and it will be useless to hold a conference" in Paris as proposed, Al-Fahoum told reporters.

France has branded Israel's expansion of settlements illegal and insisted both sides refrain from "unilateral gestures" that could undermine peace efforts.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has for days been expected due to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo to finalise a new government put together by the two factions, but the meeting appears to have been delayed.

Fahoum said Abbas "will fix a new date for the meeting with Meshaal (to take place) maybe this week or maybe next week. But it's going to be very soon."

© 2011 AFP

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