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Thursday, January 12, 2017

72 countries including US to attend Paris peace conference

Representatives of 72 countries will attend the Paris peace conference, French officials announced.

Among those who said they will attend is US Secretary of State John Kerry, who late last month in a lengthy speech laid out six principles that the United States believes must govern the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while rebuking Israel’s “pernicious policy of settlement construction.” Kerry will attend the conference less than a week before he leaves his post with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to come to France after the conference to learn of its conclusions, the French news agency AFP reported. Netanyahu, who has criticized the process, saying only direct negotiations between the two parties will be effective, has said he will not travel to Paris.

The meeting of foreign ministers as part of the Paris peace initiative had been scheduled for Dec. 21 as a follow-up to a similar meeting in June, also held in Paris. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to the June meeting, which ended with a final statement calling on the Palestinians and Israelis to demonstrate “a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust.” It also proposed an international conference to further talks by the end of the year.

Netanyahu told French President Francois Hollande earlier this month that Israel would not attend the conference, but that he was open to meeting with Abbas “for direct talks without preconditions” if France cancels the summit.