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France: Mideast inaction risks ‘blazing’ conflict

French FM Laurent Fabius is on a two-day trip to the Middle East where he hopes to promote a French-led initiative

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday that the stalemate in the peace process risked setting the conflict “ablaze” and urged both sides to return to the negotiating table quickly.

U.S.-led efforts to broker peace for a two-state solution collapsed in April 2014 and leaders on both sides have since been weakened politically. But with the region’s crises worsening and Washington reassessing its options on U.S.-Israel relations, France sees a narrow window to resume negotiations.

“We have to do the maximum so that the two sides restart negotiations,” Fabius told reporters after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “We think that by doing nothing there will the twin risk of stalemate and setting (the conflict) ablaze.”

Fabius is on a two-day trip to the Middle East where he hopes to promote a French-led initiative that would see the peace process relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union and U.N. Security Council members.

These states would then work to pressure both sides to make compromises neither side wants to make alone.

Talks would be rubber-stamped by a U.N. Security Council resolution setting the negotiating parameters and establishing a time period, possibly 18 months, to complete talks.

“It’s been 40 years ... we need to adapt the method so that the Arabs, the Europeans, the Americans can accompany things,” Fabius said.

“What is important is to get these talks restarted. Israel’s security has to be assured but also the rights of the Palestinians have to be recognized and in that regard when settlements move ahead, that pushes back a two-state solution.”

Speaking at the same news conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said he supported efforts to revive the talks given the regional geopolitical situation.

“In this context, we are worried about the peace process situation,” he said.

Fabius will hear more views from the region later on Saturday when he will hold talks with key Arab League ministers, including Saudi Arabia, in Cairo. He will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The trip comes before a final round of nuclear talks between major powers and Iran in late June. Washington has said it will not discuss the Middle East process until the Iran situation is clear, but has indicated it may be receptive to a new U.N. resolution.

Israeli officials have called the French initiative counterproductive saying that only direct dialogue between the two sides could resolve the conflict.