Monday 24 July 2017

70 nations unite for peace message on Middle East

US Secretary of State John Kerry holds hands with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan looks on during the Middle East peace conference in Paris. Photo: Reuters
US Secretary of State John Kerry holds hands with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan looks on during the Middle East peace conference in Paris. Photo: Reuters

John Irish Paris

A total of 70 countries including Ireland have warned that only a two-state solution can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The one-day international Middle East peace conference in Paris also said the 70 nations would not recognise any unilateral steps by either side that could prejudge negotiations.

The conference shied away from explicitly criticising plans by US president-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, although diplomats said the wording sent a "subliminal" message.

Mr Trump has pledged to pursue more pro-Israeli policies and to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel's capital, despite international objections.

Countries including key European and Arab states, as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council, were in Paris for the conference that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected as "futile".

Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were represented.

However, just five days before Mr Trump is sworn in, the meeting was seen as a platform for countries to send a strong signal to the president-elect that a two-state solution to the conflict could not be compromised on and that unilateral decisions could exacerbate tensions.

The participants "call on each side...to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees and which they will not recognise," the final statement of the conference said.

A French diplomatic source said there had been tough negotiations on that paragraph.

"It's a tortuous and complicated paragraph to pass a subliminal message to the Trump administration," the diplomat said.

Relations between the US and Israel have soured during President Barack Obama's administration, reaching a low point late last month when Washington declined to veto UN resolution 2334 demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Paris has said the meeting did not aim to impose anything on Israel or the Palestinians and that only direct negotiations could resolve the conflict.

Irish Independent

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