Israel's PM blasts French initiative on int'l peace meeting

Updated: 2016-01-31 20:55


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Israel's PM blasts French initiative on int'l peace meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 31, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected on Sunday an ultimatum set by France to recognize a Palestinian state if Paris' efforts to hold an international peace conference would fail.

The hardliner prime minister told his cabinet that the French bid "gives incentive for the Palestinians not to compromise." He added that Israel is "willing to start direct negotiations without preconditions."

Netanyahu's remarks came after an Israeli official slammed the bid on Saturday night, pondering if France was also planning on "calling for an international conference with the Islamic State, which commits terror attacks in Paris."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that France will try to convene an international conference aiming to "bring about the two-state solution" to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking in Paris at a conference of French diplomats, Fabius said that if the efforts to kick-start the negotiations reached a deadlock, Paris would recognize a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians on Saturday welcomed the initiative. Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization "strongly" welcomed the proposal, saying it shows "Paris understanding that the current Israeli government is a government of settlers and damages the option of the two-state solution."

He urged the international community to cooperate in holding an international peace conference, with a timeframe to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The last round of peace talks collapsed in April 2014, and a deadly wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out about four months ago. At least 155 Palestinians, 25 Israelis and a U.S. citizen have been killed since mid-September, 2015.

The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, lands that Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast War.