Diplomats flock to Paris for summit on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Envoys from over 70 countries, including the US, have gathered in Paris to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel's Netanyahu has slammed the meet as "rigged" against his country.

The diplomats are expected to urge the creation of a Palestinian state at the Sunday peace conference.

"A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said while opening the meet, calling it "more indispensable than ever" to solve the decades-long dispute.

"Both parties are very far apart and their relationship is one of distrust - a particularly dangerous situation," Ayrault added. "Our collective responsibility is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table."

A draft declaration seen by the DPA news agency also calls for "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security."

The US' top diplomat John Kerry is expected to appear at the Paris summit, along with Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Envoys from Russia, China and other major powers are also among the attendees, according to a French diplomatic source. The conference follows a UN resolution last month which decried Israel's efforts to expand its settlement on occupied territories in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In his opening speech, Ayrault said there was no alternative to peace talks

Paris summit 'last twitches of yesterday's world'

The Sunday conference also sends a symbolic message to the incoming US administration led by Donald Trump, who vowed to provide even stronger support to Israel. Trump has picked hardliner David Friedman as his ambassador to the Jewish state.

Israel responded with outrage to the UN resolution and dismissed the Paris summit as "rigged by Palestinians."

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as "the last twitches of yesterday's world," hinting that his government was holding out for a US policy shift under Trump.

"The conference convening today in Paris is a futile conference," he told his cabinet.

"It was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the aim of imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs."

"Tomorrow's world will be different - and it is very near," he added.

Breaking the cycle of violence

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives are attending the Paris summit. French President Francois Hollande has invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to come to Paris to discuss the outcome in the coming weeks. Netanyahu declined a similar offer, according to French diplomats.

Pro-Israeli protesters gathered in Paris to oppose the peace meeting

In an article printed in "Le Monde" on Thursday, Ayrault said France was not trying to impose a solution, but to stop an "infernal cycle of radicalization and violence" between the two sides.

Palestinians were seeing "their future state melt away" due to Jewish settlements, Ayrault said. In turn, Israelis suffered nearly daily violence by those who "harness frustrations to promote an agenda of hatred," he added.

A history of the Middle East peace process

UN Security Council Resolution 242, 1967

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, called for the exchange of land for peace. Since then, many of the attempts to establish peace in the region have referred to 242. The resolution was written in accordance with Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which resolutions are recommendations, not orders.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Camp David Accords, 1978

A coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, fought Israel in the Yom Kippur or October War in October 1973. The conflict eventually led to the secret peace talks that yielded two agreements after 12 days. This picture from March 26, 1979, shows Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, his US counterpart Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin after signing the accords in Washington.

A history of the Middle East peace process

The Madrid Conference, 1991

The US and the former Soviet Union came together to organize a conference in the Spanish capital city of Madrid. The discussions involved Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestinians — not from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) — who met with Israeli negotiators for the first time. While the conference achieved little, it did create the framework for later, more productive talks.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Oslo I Accord, 1993

The negotiations in Norway between Israel and the PLO, the first direct meeting between the two parties, resulted in the the Oslo I Accord. The agreement was signed in the US in September 1993. It demanded that Israeli troops withdraw from West Bank and Gaza and a self-governing, interim Palestinian authority be set up for a five-year transitional period. A second accord was signed in 1995.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Camp David Summit Meeting, 2000

US President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to the retreat in July 2000 to discuss borders, security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Despite the negotiations being more detailed than ever before, no agreement was concluded. The failure to reach a consensus at Camp David was followed by renewed Palestinian uprising, the Second Intifada.

A history of the Middle East peace process

The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002

The Camp David negotiations were followed first by meetings in Washington and then in Cairo and Taba, Egypt — all without results. Later the Arab League proposed the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut in March 2002. The plan called on Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders so that a Palestinian state could be set up in the West Bank and Gaza. In return, Arab countries would agree to recognize Israel.

A history of the Middle East peace process

The Roadmap, 2003

The US, EU, Russia and the UN worked together as the Middle East Quartet to develop a road map to peace. While Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas accepted the text, his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon had more reservations with the wording. The timetable called for a final agreement on a two-state solution to be reached in 2005. Unfortunately, it was never implemented.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Annapolis, 2007

In 2007 US President George W. Bush hosted a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to relaunch the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took part in talks with officials from the Quartet and over a dozen Arab states. It was agreed that further negotiations would be held with the goal of reaching a peace deal by the end of 2008.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Washington, 2010

In 2010, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to and implement a ten-month moratorium on settlements in disputed territories. Later, Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all issues. Negotiations began in Washington in September 2010, but within weeks there was a deadlock.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Cycle of escalation and ceasefire continues

A new round of violence broke out in and around Gaza late 2012. A ceasefire was reached between Israel and those in power in the Gaza Strip, which held until June 2014. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 resulted in renewed violence and eventually led to the Israeli military operation Protective Edge. It ended with a ceasefire on August 26, 2014.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Paris summit, 2017

Envoys from over 70 countries gathered in Paris, France, to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu slammed the discussions as "rigged" against his country. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives attended the summit. "A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the opening of the event.

A history of the Middle East peace process

Deteriorating relations in 2017

Despite the year's optimistic opening, 2017 brought further stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A deadly summer attack on Israeli police at the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, sparked deadly clashes. Then US President Donald Trump's plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem prompted Palestinian leader Abbas to say "the measures ... undermine all peace efforts."

dj/rc (AP, dpa, AFP)