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WEST BANK: France enters the Palestinians' run to September

June 2, 2011 |  1:09 pm

The Palestinian race to September is going at full force, in spite of international initiatives to persuade  them to change their minds.

The latest such initiative came from France.

On a visit to Ramallah on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe revealed his government’s plan to invite Palestinians and Israelis to an international peace conference late this month or in early July in Paris.

The purpose is to restart the moribund Palestinian-Israeli negotiations before September, when the Palestinians want the United Nations Security Council to vote in favor of a resolution admitting the State of Palestine as a full member of the U.N.,  with recognized borders within the June 1967 armistice line.

“We are convinced that if nothing happens between now and September, the situation will be difficult for everyone,” Juppe said at a news conference after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Juppe stopped short of saying his country would support the Palestinian effort if Israel turns down the French initiative, which is expected to happen, emphasizing that “if nothing happens until September … all options will be open.”

Though Juppe’s plan is based mainly on President Obama’s Mideast initiative, which calls for resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, it  goes a couple of steps further, which make the Israeli rejection likely.

While Obama talked about security for Israel, Juppe talked about security for the two states, and while Obama said the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees would be negotiated at a later stage without giving a timeline, the French minister said these issues should be resolved within one year.

The French expansion on the Obama plan seems to have struck a positive note with the Palestinian Authority, but apparently not strongly enough to agree to attend the proposed Paris peace conference, let alone resume negotiations with Israel before it stops all settlement activities and agrees that the talks will eventually lead to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Fayyad, speaking at the press conference with Juppe, said that the French initiative could succeed “if it had the right parameters that clearly state the 1967 borders and that reject the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, which will be the capital of the Palestinian state.”

Juppe said the French plan has the backing of the European Union and the United States. All that is left is to have the backing of Israel and the Palestinians.

--Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

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