Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. (Photo: Haim Zach/ GPO)

French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, announced at a conference of French diplomats in Paris on Friday that France will work towards convening an international conference to jump-start negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Fabius threatened that France will recognize a Palestinian state if negotiations fail.

“France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the solution of two states,” he said.

“Unfortunately, settlement construction continues. We must not let the two-state solution unravel. It is our responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,” he added.

“If this attempt to achieve a negotiated solution reaches a dead end, we will take responsibility and recognize the Palestinian state,” said Fabius.

Israel rejected France’s proposal, saying there is no incentive for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to comply or to negotiate in a manner designed to end in success.

“The foreign minister of France says up front that if his initiative reaches a dead end, France will recognize a Palestinian state. This statement is an incentive for the Palestinians to bring about a dead end. Negotiations cannot be held nor peace achieved in this manner.”

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The PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the initiative.

“We welcome the call made by France for serious international involvement towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967,”Erekat said. “We will be contacting France, as well as other international partners, to advance in that direction. We have been calling upon the International community to have an international conference for Palestine based on International law and UN resolutions.”

A senior official from the White House was quoted by Reuters as rejecting Fabius’ ultimatum.

“We are aware of Foreign Minister Fabius’ remarks,” the US official said. “We are not going to speculate about the proposed conference. We obviously continue to engage with our partners to find a constructive way forward in terms of advancing our shared goal of a two-state solution.”

“The US position on this issue has been clear. We continue to believe that the preferred path to resolve this conflict is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly,” the official said.

PA Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told reporters last week, “We will not accept that the year 2016 is a year when we cannot do anything. We have to open some doors to keep the hope alive and keep the two-state solution alive.”

He cited the international nuclear deal with Iran as a precedent that a “collective approach” is needed to solve the conflict with Israel.

He also noted that the wave of violence that has plagued Israel since September will be, “much, much worse than what we see now.”

Mansour recently met with the envoys from the permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, and suggested that a resolution condemning Israel’s expansion of the settlements.

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Source: Israel in the News