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Middle East

Paris meeting calls for world to push for Israel-Palestine peace

media US Secretary of State John Kerry with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. at the Paris conference Reuters

An international conference on the Middle East called for Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks in Paris on Friday, despite Israel's opposition to the French intitiative and a lukewarm reaction from the US.

Representatives from 28 countries, the Arab League, European Union and United Nations discussed ways in which to "help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace," according to a joint statement.

France has been working on the issue for several months, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

Both he and Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited Israeli and Palestinian leaders ahead of the conference.

Although the Palestinians welcomed the initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu rejected it, calling for direct talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But the Palestinians rejected that, saying that during direct negotiations, the Israelis would have the upper hand.

"The problem is that Israel has the most right-wing government in its history and it is not likely to give up any of the territory that the Palestinians say is theirs or reduce settlements in the occupied territories," commented Jan van der Made, who covered the conference for RFI. "So, for now, the conference is not much more than a talking shop."

But there have been talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia recently, leading to the possibility of backchannel contacts

France is planning a fully fledged peace conference at the end of the year.

"That may bring more results," comments van der Made. "Provided that Israel and Palestine are both willing to be present and talk without preconditions."

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