France Hopes Paris Peace Summit Convinces Trump on Two-state Solution

Final statement from peace conference was softer than initially expected, and was achieved after intensive negotiations over the past day.

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the  Mideast peace conference in Paris, January 15, 2017.
Bertrand Guay/AP

PARIS – France’s foreign minister said Sunday he hopes the international consensus at the day’s peace conference would convince the incoming U.S. administration that the entire world seeks to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution.

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Speaking at a press conference after the peace conference, Jean-Marc Ayrault added that most of the countries represented at the gathering backed his view that moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could inflame the region. He said he plans to discuss this issue with the incoming U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

Jerusalem, Ayrault stressed, is an issue that must be dealt with by the parties to the conflict themselves.

> Kerry promises Netanyahu: Paris peace conference won't lead to further international action

Shortly before the conference opened, Ayrault said in an interview with France 3 television that if U.S. President-elect Donald Trump did move the embassy, it would have grave consequences.

“I don’t think he can do this,” Ayrault said. “It would have extremely grave consequences. This isn’t the first time this has been on an American government’s agenda, but no government has ever made this decision. It’s impossible to make such one-sided decisions. You have to create the conditions for peace.”

(From left) Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and French State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir pose for a group photo during a Mideast peace conference in Paris, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017. Fearing a new eruption of violence in the Middle East, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to push for renewed peace talks that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Bertrand Guay/AP

The peace conference, attended by foreign ministers or other senior diplomats from 70 countries, as well as representatives of international organizations, closed after eight hours of discussion. 

The conference issued a concluding statement that urged Israelis and Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution, thus disassociating themselves from voices that reject this solution,” to “independently demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution,” and to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees.” The statement stressed that conference participants will refuse to recognize such unilateral steps.

The statement was the product of intensive negotiations among the participants over the last day, and was considerably softer than the draft the French had presented on Saturday. For instance, the final statement makes no mention of the June 4, 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations, nor does it urge participating countries to distinguish, in all their actions, between Israel and the settlements.

The clause urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to dissociate themselves from opponents of two states was also softened; the draft had demanded that they “disavow official voices on their side that reject this solution.”

The final statement urged both sides “to take urgent steps in order to reverse the current negative trends on the ground, including continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, and to start meaningful direct negotiations.” It welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned the settlements and deemed them illegal, as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech last month outlining the principles for a two-state solution and a July report by the Quartet, comprising the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

Secretary of State John Kerry departs his hotel for the Mideast peace conference in Paris, France, January 15, 2017
Alex Brandon, Reuters

Finally, the statement announced that any of the conference participants who so desired would reconvene toward the end of 2017 to review progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace in the interim.

Earlier, Kerry spoke to Netanyahu and promised the Paris peace conference will not lead to further action at the United Nations or in any other international forums.

Kerry, who is attending the conference, spoke to Netanyahu by phone and promised there would be no follow up to the conference at the UN Security Council before Obama leaves office on January 20. He added that should any resolution be put forward during that time, the U.S. would oppose it.

A senior Israeli official, who requested to remain anonymous, said that Kerry briefed Netanyahu on efforts the Americans are making to soften the wording of the summit's concluding statement.