Israel-Palestine peace conference begins in Paris

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PARIS (CNN) — An international peace conference aimed at bringing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict opened in Paris Sunday.

While it is being attended by some 70 countries, neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials were present, while the incoming administration of the White House was also absent.

The conference, which was welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to meet Pope Francis at the Holy See on Saturday, was dismissed as “rigged” by Israeli PrIme Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

‘Emergency’

The talks, hosted by France, are aimed at bringing both sides back to some level of negotiations with the last round of talks collapsing in 2014.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, told delegates, “there is no time to lose” over a solution.

“It is not the time to stop, the emergency remains,” he said.

“The parties remain very distanced in a relationship of defiance, which is particularly dangerous, and no one is immune to a new explosion of violence.”

The conference comes amid rising tensions between Israeli and Palestinian leaders following December’s passing of a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

The Security Council approved the resolution with 14 votes with the US abstaining.

Israel fears the recommendations of the conference could turn into another Security Council resolution in the Obama administration’s final days in office.

‘Last twitches’

Speaking at his cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu described the event in Paris as a “useless conference.”

“It is being coordinated between the French and the Palestinians,” he said.

“Its goal is to try and force terms on Israel that conflict with our national needs. Of course it pushes peace further away because it hardens the Palestinian positions and it also pushes them away from direct negotiations without preconditions.

“I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near.”

Embassy

Netanyahu’s mention of “tomorrow’s world” could be in reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a proposal that has caused consternation within the international community.

Abbas has written to Trump to say an embassy move would have a dire effect on any chances of peace.

He also warned in a recent speech that “any statement or position that disrupts or changes the status of Jerusalem is a red line which we will not accept.”

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