PA’s chief negotiator upbeat on French proposal for peace confab


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority’s chief peace negotiator called a French proposal to hold an international peace conference “timely” and “realistic.”

“The French ideas are timely, the French ideas are realistic and the French ideas are the only thing in town, and those who care about peace between Palestinians and Israelis must fully support the French ideas,” Saeb Erekat said Tuesday after a meeting in Ramallah with French envoy Pierre Vimont.

The meeting came a day after Vimont met with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold, who expressed skepticism about the initiative.

“The Israeli side emphasized the importance of direct, bilateral negotiations with no prior conditions between the parties,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said after the meeting Monday.

The international conference is tentatively scheduled to take place in June or July, despite Israeli reservations. PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told Vimont on Tuesday that the PA leadership “fully supports” the initiative.

Earlier this month, France stepped away from earlier assertions that it would “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if the Paris-hosted international conference fails to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“There is never anything automatic,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said last week in Cairo. “France will present its initiative to its partners. It will be the first step; there is no prerequisite.”

Ayrault’s predecessor, Laurent Fabius, angered Israel in January when after proposing the conference, he said France would recognize a Palestinian state if the talks failed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that by promising to recognize a Palestinian state, it was providing “an incentive for the Palestinians to come and not compromise.”

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