Palestinian leaders express hope for new French peace push

Friday 11/03/2016
Erekat: French ideas are realistic

RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) - Palestinian leaders expressed hope for a new French push for peace efforts in talks with a Paris envoy on Tuesday, after he faced scepticism in meetings with Israel.

Pierre Vimont, France's point man on efforts to hold an international peace conference by the summer, held talks Tuesday in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, foreign minister Riad al-Malki and top negotiator Saeb Erekat.

"The French ideas are timely, the French ideas are realistic and the French ideas are the only thing in town, and those who care about peace between Palestinians and Israelis must fully support the French ideas," Erekat said.

France launched the effort earlier this year to host an international conference to revive peace talks. It initially vowed to recognise a Palestinian state if talks failed, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault later said the recognition would not be automatic.

Vimont on Monday met Israeli foreign ministry director general Dore Gold, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians and sought to "understand the initiative's logic" during talks with Vimont.

"The Israeli side emphasised the importance of direct, bilateral negotiations, with no prior conditions between the parties," he said.

The French initiative comes amid a wave of violence since October that has killed 193 Palestinians and 28 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to the Israeli authorities.

Others were shot dead during protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air raids in the Gaza Strip.