French President Francois Hollande, inaugurating a French initiative to revive the stalled Mideast peace process in Paris last week, said the huge changes taking place in the Middle East region make it even more urgent to find a solution to the conflict. Saying that the regional upheaval creates new obligations for peace, the president added that this was necessary to “avoid extremists' exploitation of the vacuum if the peace process fails.
The president added that while the "brave choice of peace" is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians, who are absent from the Paris conference, the French initiative could help provide safeguards for a permanent and stable agreement. Earlier on Friday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said direct negotiations between both sides did not work. "Currently everything is blocked," he said. "We don't want to act in the place of the Israelis and Palestinians but we want to help them," he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US State Secretary John Kerry, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Araby are among the high-profile attendees at the conference, along with representatives from Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UK, Germany, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Senegal, Sweden and Switzerland.
Major Powers were aiming to work out a number of security guarantees and economic incentives to encourage Israel and the Palestinians to resurrect the peace talks by the end of 2016. There have been numerous rounds of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the early 1990s, with the most recent collapsing in acrimony in April 2014.
In a final communiqué, released at the end of the conference, the delegates said the two-state solution based on negotiations is the only way for achieving a permanent peace and helping the two sides live side by side in peace. Ministers said they were "alarmed that actions on the ground, particularly continued acts of violence and ongoing settlements are dangerously imperiling the prospects for the two-state solution".
The communiqué urged Palestine and Israel to abide by the two-state solution so as to rebuild confidence and create conditions for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories based on 1967 borders and all pending issues in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and implementing the Arab peace initiative.
Conferees welcomed the key role of the Middle East Quartet and French initiative to hold an international conference, with the participation of Palestine and Israel by the end of year. In a press statement after concluding the conference, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault cautioned against the slowness in solving the conflict, calling for taking urgent steps to maintain the two-state solution, before it's too late.
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the Arab initiative recognizes Israel in exchange for a comprehensive peace settlement. He added that there was no amendment to the initiative.