French peace drive `flicker of hope`: Palestinians

Israel, which opposes the French peace drive, put the head of its foreign ministry in front of the media for an unscheduled press conference.

Jerusalem: Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has said France`s bid to revive Israel-Palestinian peace efforts brings "a flicker of hope" for a resolution to the conflict.

In an opinion piece in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Erekat said that multilateral talks opening Friday in Paris offered "a broader framework" than the moribund bilateral track.

"The French initiative is the flicker of hope Palestine has been waiting for and we are confident that it will provide a clear framework with defined parameters for the resumption of negotiations," he wrote in the piece, published online late Thursday night.

"The international conference should be viewed as an opportunity to create a negotiating environment in which power is equalised and law and human rights prevail."

Israel, which opposes the French peace drive, put the head of its foreign ministry in front of the media Thursday evening for an unscheduled press conference.

Diplomat Dore Gold said the bid was doomed to fail, likening it to a 1916 colonial effort to carve up the Middle East.

"This effort utterly failed then and will completely fail today," he said in a reference to the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Britain to draw up the region`s borders.

"The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow us to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them," he said.

"Therefore we prefer a Middle Eastern process and not a process that somebody is trying to create in Paris."

According to French diplomatic sources, the fresh peace push would centre on the 2002 Saudi Arabian-led initiative, in which Arab leaders said they would recognise the state of Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied since 1967, and the creation of a Palestinian state.

The proposal was largely ignored by Israel at the time but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a positive reference to it on Monday, saying it "includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians".

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be represented in Paris at Friday`s talks, which aim to lay the ground for a fully-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.


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