France says Trump’s proposal to move US embassy to Jerusalem would be a provocation

‘One cannot have such a clear-cut, unilateral position. You have to create the conditions for peace’

John Irish
Paris
Sunday 15 January 2017 14:04
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Demonstrators wave flags and shout slogans during a rally in Paris on January 15, 2017 against the Paris Middle East peace conferenc
Demonstrators wave flags and shout slogans during a rally in Paris on January 15, 2017 against the Paris Middle East peace conferenc

France’s foreign minister said on Sunday a proposal by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the American embassy to Jerusalem would be a provocation with serious consequences.

“One cannot have such a clear-cut, unilateral position. You have to create the conditions for peace,” Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 television, as the Paris conference to kick-start an agreement for a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians drew to a close.

Some 70 countries, including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council, are in the French capital for a meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected as “futile”. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be represented.

But just five days before inauguration day, the conference provided a platform for the international community to send a strong signal to the incoming American president.

Trump has pledged to pursue more pro-Israeli policies and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been for 68 years. It would all but enshrine Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite international objections.

Mr Ayrault said the move would have serious consequences on the ground.

“Of course [it’s a provocation]. I think he would not be able to do it. Paris has said the meeting will not impose anything on Israel or the Palestinians and that only direct negotiations can resolve the conflict.”

A draft communique seen by Reuters reaffirms existing international resolutions, urges both sides to restate their commitment to the two-state solution and disavow officials who reject it. The communique asks the protagonists to “refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations”.

Diplomats said the communique could be toughened up with an allusion to Mr Trump’s plans for Jerusalem and whether to have a follow-up to the French initiative intensely debated.

“This conference is among the last twitches of the world of yesterday,” Mr Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “Tomorrow will look different and that tomorrow is very close.”

Relations between the US and Israel have soured during President Barack Obama’s administration, reaching a low point late last month when Washington declined to veto a UN resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Mr Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, said the settlement programme threatened Middle East peace and the two-state solution.

Palestinian President Authority Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he had told Mr Trump that a move to Jerusalem would kill off the peace process and strip the US of its role as honest broker – and could lead to the Palestinians going back on agreeing to recognise Israel.

Home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities, France has tried to breathe new life into the peace process over the past year. It believes that, with the uncertainty surrounding how the next US administration will handle the issue, it is important to push the sides back to talks rather than allowing a fragile status quo to fester.

But with elections coming up this year in France and Germany, and Britain appearing to align itself more closely with the Trump administration on the issue, the prospects of the EU, the largest economic partner for both Israel and the Palestinians, taking a lead on the matter appear unlikely.

Arab states also have concerns about how Mr Trump’s relationship with them will turn out, and have taken a cautious line.

Reuters

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