Israel tells French special envoy: We won’t attend international peace conference
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Israel tells French special envoy: We won’t attend international peace conference

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will not participate in an international conference aimed at setting its conflict with the Palestinians,  top advisers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the French government’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process.

The envoy, Pierre Vimont, is in the region to discuss the plan for a conference to be held in December with officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He met Monday with Israel’s acting national security adviser, Yakov Nagel, and Netanyahu diplomatic envoy Isaac Molcho in Jerusalem.

Vilmont presented the Israeli envoys with France’s position on advancing its initiative, including the convening of an international conference by the end of the year.

“Nagel and Molcho clarified the State of Israel’s unequivocal position – that true progress in the peace process and achieving an agreement will come only through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and that any other initiative only pushes the region further away from this process,” according to a statement issued Monday afternoon by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement said it was “made clear” to Vilmont that Israel would not participate in the international conference, which is being convened “contrary to its position.”

“Promoting such a conference will make the possibility of advancing the peace process much less likely since it will allow Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority to continue avoiding the decision to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions,” the statement said, using the nom de guerre for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Israel is certain and expects that France will not advance a conference or process that contradicts the official position of the State of Israel,” the statement concluded.

Vimont on Sunday said that the time is not right for direct negotiations, and called on Israel to show its commitment to a two-state solution by showing up for the conference.

“If the Israeli government would decide to come to such a conference, it would be a perfect arena so that everyone, at last, would think that the commitment by the Israeli government to a two-state solution is genuine, sincere and deeply based and grounded in strong convictions,” Vimont said, according to reports, during a speech to the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.

Foreign ministers from over two dozen countries met in Paris at a peace summit in June to discuss the initiative to reboot peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited to attend the summit, which concluded with a statement calling on the two sides to demonstrate “a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust.”

The statement said that “actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity” are “dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution,” and called for the conference to take place by the end of the year.

Netanyahu did not meet with Vimont. The prime minister did, however, reiterate his commitment to peace on Monday during a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimara of Fiji.

“The quest for peace is difficult but we remain committed to it,” Netanyahu said at the start of their meeting to discuss keeping safe the hundreds of Fijian servicemen and servicewomen who serve in peacekeeping operations on Israel’s border with Syria and in the Golan Heights.