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International peace conference in Paris postponed until January

Dec. 14, 2016 9:33 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 21, 2016 4:15 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- France announced on Tuesday that the international peace conference that was scheduled to be held in Paris on Dec. 21 would be postponed until January in order to allow for further preparations.

Palestinian Ambassador to France Salman al-Herfi said that he was informed by French authorities that the conference would be postponed, adding that invitations for attending the conference would be sent out to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

However, if the Israeli side refuses, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently rejected the French initiative, the conference would be held without the attendance of either Palestinian or Israeli leaders, al-Herfi added.

If the conference is held without Palestinian and Israeli leaders, then they would be invited at a later date to be informed of the results of peace talks, he said.

Over the past several months, France has been leading renewed peace efforts between Palestine and Israel with the aim of solving the decades-long conflict between the countries.

However, Netanyahu staunchly rejected the multilateral French initiative in April, saying the “best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations." Netanyahu has instead welcomed Egypt’s efforts to restart the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly 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, causing outrage among various Palestinian political factions.

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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