France planning big push for Mideast peace conference

Foreign Minister Ayrault looks to use annual UN event to push for Mideast peace conference, promises benefits package if deal reached.

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David Rosenberg,

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
Reuters

After its failure to convince Israel to participate in a regional summit earlier this year, the French Foreign Ministry is looking to organize an international Middle East peace conference, and is prepared to offer Israel and the Palestinian Authority benefits packages if the two can conclude a final status agreement.

The move marks a notably different approach by France, which earlier this year had issued what amounted to a virtual ultimatum, threatening that if Israel and the Palestinian Authority did not reach an agreement during this year’s planned summer meeting, France would unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood.

France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, later backtracked, dropping his predecessor Laurent Fabius’ pledge to automatically recognize a Palestinian state.

Now Ayrault has replaced the stick with a carrot, pledging incentive packages to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the event an agreement is reached.

Speaking at the United Nation’s annual ministerial meeting, Ayrault pushed the planned conference, which France hopes will be held before the year is out.

“[T]his week must be a moment of political mobilization that we can reach that goal,” Ayrault said on Monday.

Ayrault hosted a meeting with leaders from the more than 20 states that attended the June summit hosted by France, discussing efforts for the proposed peace conference later this year.

France’s renewed efforts to bring together Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders and reboot negotiations stalled since 2014 comes less than two weeks after Russian officials said they had secured the agreement of both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet for renewed final status talks – though no date was set for such a meeting,