World diplomats gather to urge peace in the Middle East

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Pro-Israel demonstrators hold Isreali and France flags during a gathering in front of Israel embassy in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Sending a forceful message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to say they want peace in the Mideast — and that establishing a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve it.

CGTN’s Kate Parkinson reports.

MIDEAST PEACE

MIDEAST PEACE

Sending a forceful message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to say they want peace in the Mideast — and that establishing a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve it.
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French President Francois Hollande said he was sounding an “alert” that peace talks should be revived for “the security of Israel, security of all the region” before violent extremists and Israeli settlements destroy any hope of a two-state solution.

While the Palestinians welcomed Sunday’s conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “rigged” and cooked up behind Israel’s back to force it to accept conditions against national interests.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration did not take part, and even the conference organizers weren’t expecting any breakthroughs.

But French diplomats think there’s nothing to lose by trying. They fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.

The French president warned Trump against any “improvised” or destabilizing actions after he takes office Friday.

“It is not a question of dictating to the parties,” Hollande insisted, acknowledging Netanyahu’s hostility toward the conference. “Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place.”

“The world cannot, should not resign itself to the status quo,” he told the gathered diplomats from across Europe, the Mideast and other regions, as well as from the United Nations, Arab League and other international organizations.

Hollande urged them to support peace efforts by offering economic incentives to Israelis and Palestinians.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been increasingly outspoken about Mideast tensions, was in Paris defending American interests at the conference. His last major diplomatic foray before he leaves office, it marked the end of eight years of failed U.S. efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Netanyahu declined an invitation to a special meeting after the conference, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was initially expected, but his visit to Paris was postponed.

The Israeli prime minister said the gathering would do little to promote peace and marked the “last flutters of yesterday’s world.”

“Tomorrow will look different and tomorrow is very close,” he said in apparent reference to Trump’s incoming administration.

Palestinian officials hope the conference can lay out terms for eventual negotiations, notably on how to share Jerusalem and the need to stop Israeli settlements.

“We see in it as an attempt by the global community, by the international community, to lead the foundations and the requirements of just peace by having clear terms of reference,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said Sunday in Ramallah.

Story by The Associated Press