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WORLD DIPLOMATS IN PARIS URGE PEACE TALKS – Kuwait push for final ME settlement

US Secretary of State John Kerry shares a laugh with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini (right), as they take part with other foreign ministers, including Kuwait’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, and representatives in a family picture during a Mideast peace conference in Paris, on Jan 15. Fearing a new eruption of violence in the Middle East, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to push for renewed peace talks that would lead to a Palestinian state. (AP)

PARIS, Jan 15, (Agencies): Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said that the international conference for peace, Paris is hosting on Sunday, should focus on an end to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The conference should concentrate on reaching a “final settlement” for the conflict and not only continuing to manage it, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled told the meeting which opened earlier today by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. This can be realized through incentives to the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume the peace negotiations, creating the favorable conditions and climate for interaction and economic, educational and vocational cooperation, he said.

“This is likely to lay down bases for peace and dismiss all forms of extremism and violence,” he added. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled called for setting a time limit for completing the negotiations, as well as the immediate implementation of any agreement to be concluded, for reaching a two-state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, mainly the UN General Assembly’s No. 1994, and the UNSC’s 242, 338, 1397, 1515, 1850 and 2334, in addition to the Arab Peace Initiative, paving the way for establishing a Palestinian State on the pre- June 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as capital. In order to achieve these goals, the concerned world’s bodies — especially the Middle East Quartet, the UNSC’s Permanent Members and the international bodies — have to play an effective role for supporting and implementing them, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister noted.

He expressed the hope that the Quartet would include Arab members to make it more vital and effective. Meanwhile, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled expressed deep concern over reports that the new US Administration would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the “Occupied Jerusalem,” a matter that is most likely to undermine the opportunities for peace, contradicting with the UNSC resolutions, especially No. 478 that reads: “Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City.” At the onset of the address, the Kuwaiti chief diplomat said that the world’s public opinion, especially in the Arab region, is closely following the conference and the regional and international momentum it could produce to resume the stalled peace process.

Thus, participants in the Paris meeting, should seek by all means that the event would lead to the activation of the outcome of previous conferences and initiatives that sought a solution to the Palestinian cause, such as Madrid 1991, Oslo 1993 and Camp David 2000, besides the several resolutions by the UN’s General Assembly and the UNSC on the major issue, he said. The results of not applying the UN resolution, and the non-commitment to what have been concluded in the relevant international conferences have “aggravated the humanitarian tragedies of the unarmed Palestinian people, and heightened tension in the region,” Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled stressed.

Moreover, this has been reflected on the international peace and stability, as the region started to see the emergence of further crises, such as extremism and terrorism that cannot be dissolved unless the root of the problem, namely the Palestinian issue, is settled, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister noted. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said that this year marks the 69th anniversary of the Palestinians’ Nakba, sufferings and pain, and the 50th of the occupation of Arab territories in 1967. He also highly appreciated the precious peace initiative offered by the French President Francois Hollande to save the Mideast peace process, recalling France’s stances in support of the Palestinian cause on the international levels.

The Paris conference is bringing together more than 70 participants, nations and international organizations, in an attempt to bolster the “Two- State Solution” and provide incentives to both belligerents to resume negotiations that have broken down for six years. Sending a forceful message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to say they want peace in the Mideast — and that establishing a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve it. French President Francois Hollande said he was sounding an “alert” that peace talks should be revived for “the security of Israel, security of all the region” before violent extremists and Israeli settlements destroy any hope of a two-state solution.

While the Palestinians welcomed Sunday’s conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “rigged” and cooked up behind Israel’s back to force it to accept conditions against national interests. US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration did not take part, and even the conference organizers weren’t expecting any breakthroughs. But French diplomats think there’s nothing to lose by trying. They fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. The French president warned Trump against any “improvised” or destabilizing actions after he takes office Friday. “It is not a question of dictating to the parties,”

Hollande insisted, acknowledging Netanyahu’s hostility toward the conference. “Only direcnegotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place.” “The world cannot, should not resign itself to the status quo,” he told the gathered diplomats from across Europe, the Mideast and other regions, as well as from the United Nations, Arab League and other international organizations. Hollande urged them to support peace efforts by offering economic incentives to Israelis and Palestinians. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been increasingly outspoken about Mideast tensions, was in Paris defending American interests at the conference. His last major diplomatic foray before he leaves office, it marked the end of eight years of failed US efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Netanyahu declined an invitation to a special meeting after the conference, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was initially expected, but his visit to Paris was postponed. The Israeli prime minister said the gathering would do little to promote peace and marked the “last flutters of yesterday’s world.” “Tomorrow will look different and tomorrow is very close,” he said in apparent reference to Trump’s incoming administration. Palestinian officials hope the conference can lay out terms for eventual negotiations, notably on how to share Jerusalem and the need to stop Israeli settlements.

“We see in it as an attempt by the global community, by the international community, to lead the foundations and the requirements of just peace by having clear terms of reference,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said Sunday in Ramallah. Ashrawi also warned of growing racism and extremism, and expressed fears that Trump would fuel tensions. According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.” It also will affirm that the international community “will not recognize” changes to Israel’s pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides. A draft circulating Sunday did not include direct reference to moving the US embassy, a move that could be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after decades of insisting that the city’s status must be determined by direct negotiations. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not negotiated even indirectly since a failed US-led peace effort in 2014. While the conference was underway, a few hundred pro-Israel demonstrators, waving Israeli flags and placards denouncing the summit, gathered outside Israel’s embassy in Paris. “The Palestinians and a number of Arab states have not expressed a will for peace,” Serge Klarsfeld, a wellknown famous French Nazi hunter, said. “If it existed and if the Arab world recognized the existence of Israel, we would find the means to solve all the problems very quickly.” The demonstrators loudly booed French lawmaker Pierre Lellouche when he took the podium and declared himself in favor of a “two-state solution” and the halting of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. Ariel Goldmann, president of the French Jewish association Fonds Social Juif Unifié, called the conference a “mockery of dialogue, a mockery of peace, a historical mockery.” Goldmann said he was “sad that France is lending itself to such a maneuver.”

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