PARIS: France warned of “serious consequences” on Sunday if Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as representatives from 70 countries met in Paris to try to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending the conference, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed as “futile”.
France called the gathering to reaffirm global support for a two-state solution to the seven-decade-old conflict, seen as increasingly elusive.
Representatives of 70 countries try to revive peace efforts
The Palestinians have warned that Trump’s campaign pledge to move the US embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem could torpedo their chances of obtaining an independent state.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned such a move would have “extremely serious consequences” and predicted the incoming US leader would find it impossible to implement.
“When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace,” he told France 3 TV.
The Palestinians regard Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its capital.
The status of the city is one of the thorniest issues in the conflict.
President Francois Hollande told the gathering that the prospect of two independent states coexisting side-by-side was “not the dream of yesterday’s system”.
“It remains the goal of the entire international community for the future,” Hollande said.
Netanyahu, who insists only direct talks with the Palestinians can bring peace, has dismissed the Paris meeting as “a last gasp of the past”.
On Sunday he called it a “futile” exercise aimed at “imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs”.
Both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas have been invited to meet Hollande to discuss the conclusions of the Paris talks.
The conference is mainly symbolic, but comes at a crucial juncture for the Middle East, five days before Trump is sworn in as US president.
Trump has said “there’s nobody more pro-Israeli than I am” and his choice for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a hardliner who says he looks forward to working from “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem”.
Israel, which is still seething over a critical UN resolution last month, fears the Paris meeting could produce measures hastily put to the Security Council before Trump takes over.
The French have stressed they have no such plans.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2017