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Diplomats flock to Paris for summit on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Envoys from over 70 countries, including the US, have gathered in Paris to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel's Netanyahu has slammed the meet as "rigged" against his country.

The diplomats are expected to urge the creation of a Palestinian state at the Sunday peace conference.

"A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said while opening the meet, calling it "more indispensable than ever" to solve the decades-long dispute.

"Both parties are very far apart and their relationship is one of distrust - a particularly dangerous situation," Ayrault added. "Our collective responsibility is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table."

A draft declaration seen by the DPA news agency also calls for "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security."

The US' top diplomat John Kerry is expected to appear at the Paris summit, along with Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Envoys from Russia, China and other major powers are also among the attendees, according to a French diplomatic source. The conference follows a UN resolution last month which decried Israel's efforts to expand its settlement on occupied territories in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Frankreich Nahost-Konferenz in Paris (Reuters/T. Samson)

In his opening speech, Ayrault said there was no alternative to peace talks

Paris summit 'last twitches of yesterday's world'

The Sunday conference also sends a symbolic message to the incoming US administration led by Donald Trump, who vowed to provide even stronger support to Israel. Trump has picked hardliner David Friedman as his ambassador to the Jewish state.

Israel responded with outrage to the UN resolution and dismissed the Paris summit as "rigged by Palestinians."

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as "the last twitches of yesterday's world," hinting that his government was holding out for a US policy shift under Trump.

"The conference convening today in Paris is a futile conference," he told his cabinet.

"It was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the aim of imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs."

"Tomorrow's world will be different - and it is very near," he added.

Breaking the cycle of violence

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives are attending the Paris summit. French President Francois Hollande has invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to come to Paris to discuss the outcome in the coming weeks. Netanyahu declined a similar offer, according to French diplomats.

Frankreich Demonstration bei Nahost-Konferenz in Paris (Getty Images/AFP/P. Constant)

Pro-Israeli protesters gathered in Paris to oppose the peace meeting

In an article printed in "Le Monde" on Thursday, Ayrault said France was not trying to impose a solution, but to stop an "infernal cycle of radicalization and violence" between the two sides.

Palestinians were seeing "their future state melt away" due to Jewish settlements, Ayrault said. In turn, Israelis suffered nearly daily violence by those who "harness frustrations to promote an agenda of hatred," he added.

dj/rc (AP, dpa, AFP)

 

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