Israel opposes peace conference- Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told France’s foreign minister that Israel remained opposed to a French initiative for an international conference to try revive peace talks.

Palestinians welcomed the proposal but Israel is concerned that an international forum would try to dictate terms for a peace deal.

In a public remarks to his cabinet after meeting France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault, Netanyahu said: “I told him the only way to advance genuine peace between us and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations between us and them, without preconditions.”

Anything other than bilateral talks would give the Palestinians an “escape hatch” through which to avoid meeting his demand that they recognize Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people”, he said.

According to him, Israel have made the same arguments in the formal response it gave last month.

France hopes an international conference would set out a framework for peace negotiations after U.S. efforts to broker a two-state deal collapsed in April 2014.

After meeting Netanyahu, Ayrault traveled to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to discuss the initiative with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

An international gathering, planned for May 30th in Paris, was set to include the Middle East Quartet, the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council and about 20 countries, without Israeli or Palestinian participation.

Diplomats said that meeting will package all economic incentives and other guarantees that various countries have offered in previous years to create an agenda for a peace conference in the autumn.

Reuters/Hauwa Mustapha