French PM to visit Israel in bid to relaunch peace talks

French PM Manuel Valls will visit Israel and the PA this month in a bid to engineer a peace deal based on a two-state solution.

Elad Benari,

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls
Reuters

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority this month in a bid to relaunch the peace process, his office said Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.

Valls’ visit, from May 21-24, comes as France seeks to engineer a peace deal based on a two-state solution.

As part of the French initiative, it will hold a meeting on May 30 for ministers from 20 countries to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Back in January when the French initiative was announced, Paris had threatened to unilaterally recognize the "state of Palestine" if the talks failed.

Since then, the new French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault backtracked on the threat, saying France would not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if its initiative fails.

The proposed meeting has been welcomed by the Palestinians, who have suspended a planned UN resolution condemning “Israeli settlements” to focus on the bid.

Israel, for its part, has rejected the initiative and is saying that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides, rather than international forums.

Ayrault has said the aim of the meeting is to prepare an international summit in the second half of 2016, which would include the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The trip to Israel will also be a chance for Valls to smooth over a row over a recent UNESCO resolution, backed by France, which spoke of "Occupied Palestine" and which ignored the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attacked the "absurd" resolution and, last week, announced he would host a Jewish history lecture for UN officials, in the wake of the UNESCO vote.

Valls will meet Netanyahu on May 23, according to AFP.

He will arrive in Israel the previous day and also plans to meet President Reuven Rivlin, former Israeli President Shimon Peres and opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog.

On May 24 he is scheduled to travel to Ramallah where he will hold talks with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah.








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