Israel officially rejected the French initiative to convene an international peace conference on Thursday, ahead of a foreign ministers' summit France has initiated and planned for May 30 in Paris.
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“Israel remains steadfast in its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is by direct and bilateral negotiations,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, a few hours before the start of the holiday.
“Israel is ready immediately to begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions. Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from the table of direct negotiations.”
U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a daily briefing on Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to decide if he will attend the peace summit. Kirby said that the U.S. administration is examining the French proposal and is discussing it with various countries.
The French government will convene a summit in Paris on May 30 aimed at renewing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to be attended by dozens of foreign ministers.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault elaborated on the French positions on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Haaretz last week, saying that violence between the sides and the settlements were the two immediate obstacles to continued talks.
The foreign ministers' meeting will occur without the participation of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, ahead of the main international peace conference that France hopes to hold in Paris over the summer.
Israeli diplomats said that in early May, senior diplomats from all participating countries will hold a preparatory meeting to discuss the foreign ministers' meet.
In recent months, French envoy Pierre Vimont has held a series of consultations with Israel, the Palestinians and a host of other countries in the European Union, the Arab world, the United States and Russia to hear their views regarding the peace conference initiative.