RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – France is ready to host a Middle East peace conference before the end of July to help relaunch stalled negotiations, France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.
Speaking in Ramallah, Juppe said France was willing to transform a July meeting in Paris of international donors to the Palestinians into a broader peace conference that could kick-start negotiations.
“We would be prepared, on the basis of a request by the (Mideast) Quartet, to organise in Paris…, before the end of July, a conference that would not be simply for the donors but a broader political conference involving the negotiation process,” he said.
Juppe is holding meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials during a three-day trip taking place as talks between the two sides are mired in a stalemate over the issue of Jewish settlement construction.
In the absence of negotiations, the Palestinians have pledged to seek recognition and membership at the United Nations in September, a move criticised by Israel and the United States.
France has called for the urgent resumption of negotiations, which came to a halt, shortly after they began in September 2010, when a partial freeze on Israeli settlement construction expired.
Israel refused to renew the freeze and the Palestinians insist they will not hold talks while settlements are being built on land they want for their future state.
Juppe said on Thursday that new talks should proceed in two stages, with the first discussing security and borders, based on the 1967 lines, on the assumption that a final accord would include mutually-agreed land swaps.
The second stage of the talks, which he said should be completed within a year from its start, would discuss Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, he said.
Juppe spoke after meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad. On Wednesday he met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Rome before flying to Israel and meeting his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.
He is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Thursday.