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European Union foreign ministers back French initiative

June 20, 2016 8:37 P.M. (Updated: July 12, 2016 12:51 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The European Union’s 28 foreign ministers endorsed on Monday the French-led initiative to hold a multilateral conference to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted the resolution to back the French initiative and reiterated “its support for a just, sustainable and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace and stability in the region," according to a statement released following the decision.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said Monday that a report to be released in the coming days is expected to be critical of Israel’s policy in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied territory, considered illegal under international law, have been seen as main contributor to the deadlock in peace negotiations. Israel’s cabinet on Sunday approved an addition $18.6 million in funding for West Bank settlements.

Since the French initiative began gaining more momentum in recent months, the Israeli government has come out in staunch opposition to the proposed multilateral peace talks.

Netanyahu first rejected the French initiative in April, saying the “best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations."

The Palestinian Authority, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, something Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated during a phone call with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday.

Abbas stressed his commitment to the two-state solution within the 1967 borders, adding that all illegal settlement activity should be halted, and that there should be a timeframe for negotiations under international monitoring.

All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.

The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014.

Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel's ongoing settlement building and the government's refusal to release veteran prisoners.

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