Fri | Sep 22, 2017

World diplomats tell Trump, Israel: Mideast needs peace

Published:Monday | January 16, 2017 | 1:00 AM
French President François Hollande shakes hands with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar (left) while French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault (right) looks on, at the opening of the Mideast peace conference in Paris yesterday.

PARIS (AP):

Sending a forceful message to Israel's prime minister and the incoming Donald Trump administration, dozens of countries called yesterday on Israel and the Palestinians to revive work toward long-elusive peace - including an independent Palestinian state.

The closing declaration at a Mideast peace conference in Paris urged both sides to "officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution" and disassociate from voices that reject this. It also warned them against taking one-sided actions that could hurt talks, an apparent reference to Israeli settlement building.

While the Palestinians welcomed yesterday's declaration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the conference "rigged" and cooked up behind Israel's back to force it to accept conditions against national interests.

The French organisers argued the conference was necessary to keep hopes alive for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians - the solution favored by the international community for the past two decades.

ANTI-PALESTINIAN STANCES

Many members of Netanyahu's coalition want to abandon the two-state solution and expand settlements, and some have even called for annexing parts of the West Bank. Trump's campaign platform made no mention of Palestinian independence.

In a nod to Israel, the final declaration of yesterday's conference included criticism of incitement and "terror", a reference to Palestinian attacks. And some of the pro-Palestinian language in an earlier draft was removed after diplomats huddled in Paris.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been increasingly critical of Netanyahu, represented the US at the talks and defended the effort.

He rejected Israeli criticism of the conference, saying the concept of a two-state solution to the conflict is "threatened" and must be reinforced if it is ever to happen. The communique, he said, endorses that without imposing a resolution.