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ِAbbas, Hollande hold meeting in Paris

July 22, 2016 11:43 A.M. (Updated: July 30, 2016 12:38 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with his French counterpart Francois Hollande on Thursday evening at the Elysee Palace in Paris, according to the Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned news agency Wafa.

President Abbas reportedly took the time to condemn the attack in Nice, France last week which left 84 dead and some 303 injured, reiterating his support for the French people and their leadership in the fight “against terrorism.”

Abbas additionally thanked France for its support of Palestinians, pointing out France’s assistance with the political and economic well-being of the Palestinian state, while thanking Hollande for the international conference held in Paris last month to prepare for the French-led peace summit expected to be held by the end of the year.

Abbas also restated his disapproval of the Middle East Quartet report released last month, which Abbas has said failed to hold Israel accountable for its continued occupation of the Palestinian territory, soon entering its 50th year.

The two leaders reportedly discussed bilateral relations between Palestine and France, as Hollande underscored France’s support for Palestine’s international political efforts and assured Abbas that France’s diplomatic ties and economic support for Palestine would continue.

Hollande also expressed his condolences to Abbas for his brother’s death Thursday night.

Abbas was joined at the meeting by PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat, Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Malki, presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the President's Advisor for Diplomatic Affairs and International relations Majdi al-Khaldi, and the Palestinian Ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi.

France is leading renewed peace efforts between Palestine and Israel with the aim of solving the decades-long conflict between the countries. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staunchly rejected the French initiative in April, saying the “best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations," and instead voiced his support for Egyptian President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi’s trilateral initiative aiming to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders face to face and create steps towards the unification of Palestinian political factions.

The Palestinian Authority, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, and in April shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN out of fear that doing so could thwart progress of new French proposals.

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu issued a joint statement in May expressing their support of reviving the Arab Peace Initiative (API) for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which called for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory in exchange for full normalization of ties with Arab states.

Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine at the United Nations Riyad Mansour slammed the announcement by Netanyahu and Lieberman this month at a UN Security Council meeting in New York, saying that Israeli leaders were “belittling” the initiative and “failing to reciprocate time and time again and obstructing the revival of a political horizon.”

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel’s recent approval of 800 additional housing units in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem just days after the Quartet cited Israel’s settlement expansions as one of the major obstacles to peace.

“This is in flagrant disregard of international law,” Ban said at the time. “These actions constitute an undeniable contradiction to Israel’s official support for a negotiated two-state solution. I urge Israel to immediately cease and reverse these plans.”

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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