Mid-East peace talks to begin in Paris

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian woman was shot deadImage copyright

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On Thursday a Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. The Israeli army said the woman had tried to stab a soldier

A French-led conference aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is to begin in Paris later.

It will bring together officials from the Middle East Quartet, the UN, Arab League and other countries – but Israel and the Palestinians will not participate.

Israel has rejected the meeting and called for direct negotiations.

The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians came to an end amid acrimony in April 2014.

The Palestinians accused Israel of reneging on a deal to free prisoners, while Israel said it would not continue negotiations after the Palestinians decided to bring the Islamist Hamas movement into a unity government.

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Diplomats say Friday’s meeting will bring together all the economic incentives and other guarantees that various countries have offered in previous years to create an agenda for an autumn peace conference.

French diplomatic sources quoted by AFP news agency said the talks would focus on the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, which offered Arab recognition of Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

On Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Saudi plan included “positive elements”.

However, the managing director of Israel’s foreign ministry, Dore Gold, likened the French talks to the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, which carved up the Middle East between colonial powers, and said only direct talks could resolve the conflict.

“This effort utterly failed then and will completely fail today,” he said. “The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow us to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them.”

On Wednesday Mr Netanyahu called for “direct negotiations without preconditions between the sides”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the talks but Reuters quoted a US official as saying the US did not have any new proposals to put forward.

There have been numerous rounds of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the early 1990s.

Some of the most intractable issues include the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, which has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war, regards the whole of the city as its indivisible capital, though this is not recognised by the international community.

Since 1967, Israel has built more than 100 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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