Paris – An international conference was concluded Sunday in the French capital, with more than 70 countries and organizations calling on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and supporting the two-state solution as the only means to achieve sustainable peace in the Middle East.
In a final statement issued at the end of the conference, participants called on Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders, as required by United Nations resolutions, and for both parties to “abstain from unilateral actions” that could threaten future negotiations.
However, neither Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the meeting.
Netanyahu described the conference as “a last gasp” from the past and said it was unhelpful to the peace process.
“The conference taking place in Paris is an idle conference. It was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians. Its purpose is to enforce on Israel conditions that are not in line with our national needs. Of course it creates a bigger gap regarding peace because it hardens the Palestinians’ stance as well as putting us further away from direct negotiations without any preconditions,” Netanyahu said.
Abbas, who was expected to arrive in Paris on Saturday following an official visit to Rome, was asked by French authorities to delay his visit for two weeks, according to Palestinian sources.
Addressing the gathering, French President François Hollande said: “Our common aim, which is a noble aim, is that of a fair and lasting peace between the two countries. I am conscious of the reservations and doubts about this conference … but it is urgent to act.”
“The two-state solution is threatened and there is a need to preserve it. … Now is not the moment to stop. The solution of two states is the only way forward and the only solution that will answer both sides’ aspirations and legitimate rights”, he added.
For his part, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that participants have expressed the need to preserve two states, “which is the only solution possible and which is threatened today.”
“If we don’t do anything, we risk letting the situation descend into a conflict; a conflict written in advance,” Ayrault said.
Commenting on a statement by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, in which he pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Ayrault said such move would be a “provocation”, warning about “extremely serious consequences.”
“When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a clear-cut, unilateral position on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace,” he said.