French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Friday that France will try to convene an international peace summit in the next few weeks to renew diplomatic efforts between Israeli and the Palestinians. Fabius threatened that should the diplomatic offensive fail, France will formally recognize a Palestinian state.
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Israel rejected the initiative, with a senior official in Jerusalem saying the threat to recognize Palestine only encourages Palestinians not to negotiate.
Speaking in Paris at a conference of French diplomats, Fabius said "unfortunately, [Israeli] 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."
Fabius noted that France hopes the international peace summit will be attended by Israelis and Palestinians, as well as other international actors like the U.S., EU states and Arab nations.
"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 achieve the two-state solution," he said.
"If this attempt to achieve a negotiated solution reaches a dead end, we will take responsibility and recognize the Palestinian state," said Fabius.
A senior Israeli official rejected the new bid for peace shortly after Fabius' comments, saying the threat to recognize a Palestinian state should talks reach a dead-end effectively incentivizes the Palestinians to try to see the talks end in deadlock.
The PLO's negotiations affairs department however, led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, welcomed the announcement in a statement, saying: "We welcome the call made by France for serious international involvement towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967."
Erekat continued, "We will be contacting France, as well as other international partners, to advance in that direction (International Conference). We have been calling upon the International community to have an international conference for Palestine based on International law and UN resolutions."
The new effort to restart peace talks may be the last that Fabius makes before leaving his post as foreign minister in a few months' time. Since the failure of U.S.-brokered peace talks in 2014, Fabius tried to push for international efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but none bore fruit.
In December 2014, France tried to push for a UN Security Council resolution to lay down a framework for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, these efforts failed due to opposition from Israel and the U.S. on one hand, and an unwillingness of the Palestinians on the other to compromise on the exact wording of the decision in order to win final approval from the Obama administration.
In the summer of 2015, France raised the possibility of creating an international support group for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This group met on the sidelines of the UN last September. The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Quartet-member nations (U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN) together with another 30 Western and Arab countries - but without Israel or the Palestinians
Since that meeting, Fabius tried to push for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, but this effort also failed to gain traction. In the last few weeks, Fabius and other French officials held talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials. The Palestinians expressed support for the creation of an international peace committee to be based on the Arab peace initiative. Fabius' comments on Friday were, in effect, the response to this Palestinian proposal.