French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday presented a diplomatic proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which incorporates a United Nations Security Council resolution that sets a two-year timetable for achieving peace and an international peace conference to take place in Paris.
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If the initiative fails, Fabius said, France would recognize a Palestinian state.
Fabius spoke at a special parliamentary session on a proposal urging French President Francois Hollande to recognize Palestine as a state. Lawmakers intend to vote on the initiative, which a majority of French political parties are expected to support, on December 2.
"At the United Nations, we are working with our partners to adopt a Security Council resolution to relaunch and conclude talks," Laurent Fabius told MPs. "A deadline of two years is the one most often mentioned and the French government can agree with this figure."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to sway French public opinion in an interview this week on i24News. He stressed that if France's parliament recognizes a Palestinian state, it would be a mistake that will harm the chances of achieving peace.
Fabius on Friday said that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians thus far have failed because the sides couldn't make the necessary decisions to achieve peace. Therefore, he added, the international community – and not just the United States – must play an active role in helping the parties make decisions.
Fabius said France was drafting a UN Security Council resolution that would jumpstart peace talks once again and create clear guidelines for negotiations and a framework for dealing with the core issues of a final-status agreement.
The French foreign minister said that the idea of a two-year time frame to achieve a peace deal and begin implementing it came up in discussions at the UN, adding that France would support such an agenda. The Palestinians included the same timetable in the draft resolution they submitted to the UN Security Council as well.
"The objectives are ... to create detailed parameters to resolve the conflict that would be adopted by the international community and set the basis of future negotiations. We must fix a calendar because without one how do you convince anybody that it won't just be another process?" Fabius said.
As part of its new diplomatic push, France is proposing an international peace conference to support the negotiations.
Fabius stressed that the U.S. is an important player in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but that additional parties, such as the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, China and Russia – as well as the EU, Arab League and other leading Arab states like Egypt and Jordan should take part in such a conference.
Fabius included the recognition of a Palestinian state as part of the strategy outlined in his speech, telling lawmakers that he supports the calls for France to recognize Palestine. He said that French recognition is not a question of "if" but rather of "how and when."
Recognition of a Palestinian state must be part of the diplomatic effort France is advancing, and part of the negotiations that will lead to a final-status agreement, Fabius said. He added that French recognition of a Palestinian state could happen even if this latest bid fails.
"If this final effort to reach a negotiated solution fails, then France will have to do what it takes by recognizing without delay the Palestinian state," Fabius told parliament.
Israel's Foreign Ministry has been aware of the new French diplomatic effort for several weeks and is extremely concerned by it. Senior officials at the ministry said that, even if France does not recognize Palestine at this stage, the French parliament is determined to do so.
Israeli officials also fear that the proposal France is pushing at the UN Security Council is more closely aligned with the Palestinian position. In addition, a French bid at the Security Council would garner support from Britain and other countries, isolating the U.S. and possibly prompting it to abstain from a vote rather than veto it.