JPOST Reports –
French President Francois Hollande announced the delay on the radio stating: “US Secretary of State John Kerry cannot come, so it has been delayed.”
France on Tuesday agreed to delay the May 30th launch of its new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative until some time this summer to allow for the US to attend.
It had intended to hold a ministerial meeting at the end of the month with representatives from some 20 countries — not including the Israelis and Palestinians — to lay the groundwork for a larger international peace conference in the fall.
The Palestinians have welcomed the initiative and the Israelis have opposed it. But the US, which has led all past Israeli-Palestinian peace processes has yet to formally state a position on the matter.
It had initially informed France that it could not attend for scheduling reasons.
During a brief visit to Israel on Sunday French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault said that his government would be happy to reschedule the event to accommodate US Secretary of State John Kerry.
On Tuesday French President Francois Hollande announced the delay on the radio in France, stating: “US Secretary of State John Kerry cannot come, so it [the May 30 ministerial meeting] has been delayed. It will take place in the summer.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told reporters in Ramallah on Monday, that he understood from the US that they intended to come to the meeting.
But US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that the matter was still under discussion.
“We remain interested in – as the Secretary said, in advancing a two-state solution and to listening to ideas on how to do that. We’ve made it clear that the May 30th date originally proposed by the French was – would not work for the secretary and for his schedule, but there’s been no decision made yet about an alternative date that might work or his possible attendance.”
Separately, the Quartet is expected to meet in Vienna do discuss its report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is due out on the 25th and which will be one of the important foundations for the French initiative.
The peace process has been frozen since the last US-brokered effort fell apart in April 2014. The Israelis have persistently asked the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. They have refused, noting that past talks had not led to peace. The Palestinians have preferred instead an international process that would demand a halt to settlement activity and a timeline for the creation of two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines.
France is looking for a way to break that deadlock.
In speaking with a French radio station on Tuesday, 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.
He also voiced regret about a resolution passed by the United Nations cultural body UNESCO last month that failed to acknowledge Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“There was an unfortunate amendment put forward by the Jordanians … which blurred this text,” Hollande said of the decision which concerns the site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or the al-Aksa compound. 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,” Hollande said. “I will look at it personally. It’s not possible to call into question the fact that these holy sites belong to three religions,” he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.