Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a multilateral French peace initiative as he met his French counterpart yesterday, offering instead to hold direct talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he would speak to President Francois Hollande about the proposal while an aide to Valls later said there was little new in Netanyahu’s remarks.
“It can still be called the French initiative because you would host this genuine effort for peace,” Netanyahu said.
“But here’s the difference: I will sit alone, directly, with president Abbas in the Elysee (French presidential) palace or anywhere else that you choose. Every difficult issue will be on the table.”
Netanyahu, who has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the French proposal, said “this initiative can still take place in Paris, because that would be a marvellous place to sign a peace accord.”
Valls is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to advance his country’s plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
He is due to hold talks in Ramallah today with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.
Another conference would then be held in the autumn, with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance.
The goal is to eventually relaunch negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has regularly called for direct talks and offered to meet Abbas, and he reiterated his argument yesterday that peace would not be achieved though “international diktats.”
A Valls aide said the only new element in Netanyahu’s comments was his mention of talks in Paris.
Palestinian leaders say years of negotiations with Israel have not ended its occupation and have pursued a strategy of diplomacy at international bodies.
Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
An upsurge in violence since October has killed 205 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.
The unrest has steadily declined in recent weeks but yesterday a Palestinian woman was shot dead at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem while trying to stab a border policeman, Israeli authorities said.
Valls has sought to address Israel’s concerns over the French initiative, saying it would not try to impose a solution and that negotiations between the two sides would ultimately resolve the conflict.
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