Some 70 countries on Sunday reaffirmed that only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and warned they would not recognize any unilateral steps by either side that could prejudge negotiations.
The final communique of a one-day international Middle East peace conference in Paris shied away from explicitly criticizing plans by US president-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, although diplomats said the wording sent a “subliminal” message. Trump has pledged to pursue more pro-Israeli policies and to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel’s capital, despite international objections.
Countries including key European and Arab states as well as the permanent members of the UN Security Council were in Paris for the conference, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected as “futile.” Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were represented.
However, just five days before Trump is sworn in, the meeting was seen as a platform for countries to send a strong signal to the incoming American president that a two-state solution to the conflict could not be compromised on and that unilateral decisions could exacerbate tensions on the ground.
The participants “call on each side … to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees and which they will not recognize,” the final communique said.
A French diplomatic source said there had been tough negotiations on that paragraph.
“It’s a tortuous and complicated paragraph to pass a subliminal message to the Trump administration,” the diplomat said. US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters it would have been inappropriate to include the issue of moving the US embassy, it being publicly debated in the United States.
Relations between the United States and Israel have soured during President Barack Obama’s administration, reaching a low point late last month when Washington declined to veto UN resolution 2334 demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.
Paris has said the meeting did not aim to impose anything on Israel or the Palestinians and that only direct negotiations could resolve the conflict.
The final draft did not go into any details other than reaffirming UN Security Council resolutions, including 2334. Diplomats said that had been a source of friction in talks.
“When some are questioning this, it’s vital for us to recall the framework of negotiations. That framework is the 1967 borders and the main resolutions of the United Nations,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, told reporters.
Kerry, who abandoned his efforts to broker peace talks in April 2014, told reporters that the meeting had “moved the ball forward.”