France will recognize a Palestinian state if efforts to break the deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians fail in the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday.
“France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the solution of two states,” Fabius said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, France has a responsibility to continuously push to revive the talks for a two-state solution, the French FM added at a media conference in Paris.
There have been no serious efforts to broker peace between the two sides of the conflict since the American-led negotiations collapsed in April, 2014, and last year France failed to get the United States to support a U.N. Security Council resolution to set a final deadline for a deal. France warns the international community that letting the deadlocked status quo continue risks eliminating a possible two-state solution for good and plays into the hands of ISIS militants.
Should the efforts to revive negotiations achieve no results, France will unilaterally recognize Palestine.
“If this attempt to achieve a negotiated solution reaches a dead end, we will take responsibility and recognize the Palestinian state,” Fabius is cited as saying by Russia Today.
This new statement represents a turnaround in position for the French government, who previously argued it was too early to recognize a Palestinian state. The Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department posted to Twitter warmly welcoming the French Minister’s statement and supporting the call for an international conference, and follow-up tweet announced they would be contacting France.
We welcome the call made by France for serious international involvement towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.— Palestine PLO - NAD (@nadplo) January 29, 2016
In contrast, an Israeli official who asked not to be identified was quoted by Reuters criticizing the statement.
“The foreign minister of France says up front that if his initiative reaches a dead end, France will recognise a Palestinian state. This statement constitutes an incentive for the Palestinians to bring about a dead end. Negotiations cannot be held nor peace achieved in this manner.”
Palestinian authorities want a Security Council resolution condemning the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements, which have been described by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “provocative acts.” However, French diplomatic sources say the goal is to launch the conference before the summer and that it would likely not be accompanied by such a resolution, which would doubtlessly be vetoed by the United States.
An American official was quoted by Reuters responding to the French Minister’s statements.
“The U.S. position on this issue has been clear. We continue to believe that the preferred path to resolve this conflict is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly,” the official said.
With the U.S. election campaign looming, critics have predicted that Washington could be reluctant to put more pressure on Israel to resume negotiations with Palestine, a suggestion that Ambassador Riyad Mansour of Palestine roundly rejects.
“We will not accept that the year 2016 is a year when we cannot do anything,” Mansour told i24News. “We have to open some doors to keep the hope alive and keep the two-state solution alive.”
The ambassador recently met with representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council — United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia — to discuss the way forward for Palestine. It is not clear whether the U.S., Israel’s main ally, is open to Security Council action in reviving the peace process, or if it would block U.N. action. The international community fears an escalation of the conflict and further violence in the region will result if negotiations are not resumed; already 30 Israelis have been killed since September by Palestinian attacks, and 159 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces over the same period.
“We cannot let the two-state solution disintegrate,” Fabius said to a gathering of diplomats, as reported by Reuters. “It is our responsibility as a U.N. Security Council member and a power seeking peace.”
[Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images]