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Middle East

Paris Middle East peace conference goes ahead despite Israeli opposition

media The Givat Zeev in front of Ramallah on the occupied West Bank Reuters/Baz Ratner

A Middle East summit of around 70 countries and international organisations in Paris on Sunday is widely seen as a last-ditch attempt to save the two-state solution ahead of Donald Trump's investiture as US president. But neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be present and Israel has made no bones about its hostility to the meeting.

Israeli UN ambassador Danny Danon on Friday called the Paris summit "a last-minute initiative before the new US administration takes office" that would lead to "further anti-Israel measures" at the UN Security Council.

Israel was enraged by last month's Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and furious that the US abstained in a move seen as a sign of President Barack Obama's administration's frustration with Netanyahu's government.

The council is to discuss the Middle East on Tuesday but Swedish ambassador Olof Skoog, who holds the presidency this month, said "I don't think that's correct."

French ambassador François Delattre said Paris had "no such plan under preparation".

Netanyahu slams summit

Netanyahu has dismissed the Paris meeting as "a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances".

Israeli hardliners, including members of Netanyahu's Likud party, see Trump's election win as a "historic opportunity" to end the possibility of a Palestinian state.

Trump has appointed David Friedman, a vocal supporter of settlements, as his ambassador and said he will move the US embassy to Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas told Friday's Le Figaro newspaper that moving the embassy would "destroy the two-state solution" and said the Paris summit may be the last chance to save it.

Abbas to meet Hollande

Abbas is to meet French President François Hollande over the next few weeks to be briefed about the Paris conference.Netanyahu has turned down an invitation to do so.

Both Israel and the Palestinians say they are willing to talk but have not done so since 2014.

"The bilaterals have not ended occupation even though we have been engaged in bilateral talks for the last 26 years," was senior Palestinian official Mohammad Shtayyeh comment when supporting international initiatives.

Settlements and violence

France is not trying to impose a solution but wants to halt an "infernal cycle of radicalisation and violence", Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wrote in Le Monde newspaper on Thursday.

Settlement expansion, which has seen 600,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, means the Palestinians are seeing "their future state melt away", while Israelis suffer "nearly daily violence" by those who "harness frustrations to promote an agenda of hatred", he declared.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, on a farewell tour before leaving office, is to attend the summit.

French diplomats say Trump's team was "reticent" about the Paris summit when sounded out about attending it.

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