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Diplomats push for two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Paris meeting

For the first time, Arab nations in the region indicated they would be willing to recognize and normalize relations with Israel if their decades-long conflict with the Palestinians can be resolved.

 By Stephen Feller
More than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris, France, on January 15, 2017, to push for renewed peace talks that would lead to the long-sought two-state solution to end the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pictured, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaves his hotel for the conference. Photo by Alex Brandon/European Pressphoto Agency
 
Without representatives of Israel or Palestine, leaders from 70 nations around the world gathered Sunday in Paris to discuss the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with particular attention paid to working toward a two-state solution and the need for both sides to hold back on unilateral action.
Diplomats at a conference on peace in the Middle East said Sunday in a joint statement for Israel and Palestine to rededicate themselves to a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict and offering suggestions for how to get there.
The Paris meeting is considered significant as the conflict has become contentious again, at least partially because Israel has restarted construction of settlements in land the Palestinians dispute amid continued acts of violence against Israel by Palestinians.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is also expected to enter the White House with a different approach that could change years of cautious, seemingly endless efforts for peace -- and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the talks "rigged" to make Israel look bad.
"The two-state solution, which the international community has agreed on for many years, appears threatened," French President François Hollande said while starting the afternoon session at the conference. "It is physically threatened on the ground by the acceleration of settlements, it is politically threatened by the progressive weakening of the peace camp, it is morally threatened by the distrust that has accumulated between the parties, and that has certainly been exploited by extremists."
The meeting produced a two-page statement signed by all 70 countries calling for continued work toward the two-state solution -- Israel and a Palestinian state living side-by-side, and potentially sharing Jerusalem as a capital -- which is seen as the only possible solution to the endless conflict.
The statement also calls on the Palestinians to halt acts of violence, from motivating stabbing attacks at border crossings to launching rockets into Israel, and on the Israelis to stop building Jewish settlements in disputed parts of the West Bank.
The message issued by a significant portion of European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries was thought to be aimed at Trump, who has talked about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and is expected to appoint ambassadors with more hardline views of seeking peace in the region.
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after the meeting that clear progress had been made with Arab nations who, like the Palestinians, have refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. While not being said outright, Kerry said the Arab nations in the Middle East may start changing their minds about Israel if the Palestinian issue is finally taken care of.
"It's a first when you have international organizations -- the Islamic Council and the Arab League and others -- willing to try to shift the paradigm here, to point out that they are prepared to make peace with Israel," Kerry said.
Diplomats push for two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Paris meeting Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 8:26 PM Rating: 5

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