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Israel’s Netanyahu takes aim at French peace initiative

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Israel not to prejudge his efforts and warned of the dangers of continued stalemate.

By (Reuters)

Published: Sun 21 Jun 2015, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:07 PM

French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Mukataa compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. -AFP

Jerusalem - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefaced talks about a French-led peace initiative on Sunday by saying foreign powers were trying to dictate terms to Israel for a deal with the Palestinians.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on a two-day visit to the Middle East, urged Israel not to prejudge his efforts and warned of the dangers of continued stalemate.

Fabius wants to see the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which collapsed in 2014, relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union and UN Security Council members.

Netanyahu, in public remarks to his cabinet, said “international proposals they are trying to force upon us” did not take into account Israel’s security needs.

“They are trying to shunt us toward indefensible borders, ignoring what will happen on the other side,” Netanyahu said, voicing his often-stated argument that militants would take over areas vacated by Israel unless strong security arrangements were negotiated.

His remarks, made hours before he was to host Fabius, were widely interpreted in Israel as directed at France’s proposals.

At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Fabius said the conflict could be “set ablaze” if there was no movement toward peace.

“The aim is to present a number of ideas and I haven’t done that yet, so let’s not prejudge,” he said, speaking alongside his Palestinian counterpart Riyad Al Maliki.

France has so far focused with Arab states on a possible UN Security Council resolution that would set negotiating parameters and establish a timeframe, possibly 18 months, to complete talks.

Netanyahu said that “the only way to reach agreements is through negotiations between the two sides, and we will firmly reject attempts to force international dictates on us”.

But Fabius responded: “This word ‘diktat’ is part of neither French vocabulary nor the French proposals.”

In December, the United States voted against a Palestinian-drafted resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.

But this month, US President Barack Obama said the absence of a peace process and the conditions raised by Netanyahu for Palestinian statehood would make it hard for Washington to continue to defend Israel at the United Nations.

Maliki voiced support for the French initiative, saying Palestinians “need a commitment from the major powers and those with a direct interest”.

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