French Middle East Peace Conference Postponed to June

PARIS (AP/Reuters) —
French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak to journalists before a meeting in Paris, Monday, May 9, 2016. Kerry has arrived in Paris for talks on the conflict in Syria. Representatives of Britain, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and the EU have also been invited in Paris Monday for a meeting in the presence of the Riad Hijab, head of the Western-backed Syrian opposition coalition, in an effort to relaunch the Syrian peace process.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (L.) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak to journalists before a meeting in Paris, Monday. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

France’s president says an international conference in Paris aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is being delayed to allow U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to attend.

The conference was initially scheduled on May 30 but Kerry cannot come on that date, Francois Hollande told Europe 1 radio.

“A new date in early June should be set up soon,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said. “The French initiative on the peace process is necessary and urgent.”

“We are going to create, with all actors and neighboring countries, the parameters which will allow Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table,” Hollande said.

“This initiative is necessary because if nothing happens, if there is no strong French initiative, then colonization, attacks, terrorist attacks and several conflicts are going to continue,” he added.

Hollande also voiced regret about a resolution passed by the United Nations cultural body UNESCO last month that failed to acknowledge Jewish ties to Har HaBayis and caused anger in Israel.

“There was an unfortunate amendment put forward by the Jordanians … which blurred this text,” Hollande said of the decision which concerns the site. The resolution only used the Arabic terms for the site.

“I promise to be extremely vigilant when the next resolution is put forward in October,” he said. “I will look at it personally. It’s not possible to call into question the fact [regarding] these holy sites,” he added.

Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discuss the peace process. Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited.

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