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Preparations ongoing in Paris for international peace conference

April 23, 2016 10:17 P.M. (Updated: April 23, 2016 10:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A meeting is expected to be held in Paris within the next week in preparation for an international peace conference in which France plans to address an initiative geared towards renewed peace negotiations.

Palestinian ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi told Ma’an that high-profile diplomats will meet to set an agenda for the conference.

Attendees will include UN Security Council members, the Middle East Quartet, and Arab member states among others, al-Harfi said, adding that Palestinian and Israeli representatives will not be part of the meeting.

Al-Harfi told Ma’an that participants have already agreed on broad terms of France’s initiative for renewed peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the parameters of which will be presented at a peace conference at the end of May.

Agreed terms included the establishment of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem as a capital for both states, and a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian ambassador also indicated that a resolution previously expected to be presented to the UN by President Mahmoud Abbas in New York this week would likely not be submitted.

Abbas is in New York until Saturday, and a Palestinian official told Ma'an earlier this month that he would use the occasion to submit the draft resolution -- the first to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the draft resolution, saying it would serve as an obstacle to peace talks, although, the Palestinian official, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the move stemmed directly from decades of failed negotiations.

"If not now, when? There’s always an excuse when it comes to Palestinian issues. In 2011, people still had hopes for negotiations, but people don't believe in negotiations anymore," he said.

There have been hopes US President Barack Obama might be willing to back a UN resolution condemning Israel, which would be a break with all precedent for the US, which has, since 2000, used its veto a total of 10 times to protect Israel from critical draft resolutions.

In spite of this, diplomats have reportedly said that countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- both allies of the US -- have discouraged the Palestinians from submitting the draft resolution.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has also criticized the French initiative, reportedly saying earlier this week: "Can anyone explain what this initiative is about? Even the French don't know."
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