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France warns over 'impossible' US embassy move to Jerusalem

Ayrault said the two-state solution is the only one possible [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2017

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warns of 'extremely serious consequences' if US President-elect Donald Trump moves the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem as Paris peace summit begins.

Diplomats from 70 countries gathered in Paris on Sunday to try to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts amid fears of a new escalation if US President-elect Donald Trump implements a pledge to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are represented at the conference, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has dismissed as "rigged" against the Jewish state Tel Aviv.

Opening the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the international community wanted to "forcefully reiterate that the two-state solution is the only solution possible" to the seven-decade-old conflict.

In a TV interview later, Ayrault warned that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have "extremely serious consequences" and predicted Trump would find it impossible to do so.

"When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace," he told France 3 TV.

Both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to meet with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the conclusions of the Paris talks.

Abbas, who has backed the meeting, is expected to travel to Paris in the coming weeks but Netanyahu rejected the offer, French diplomats said.

The meeting is mainly symbolic, but comes at a crucial juncture for the Middle East, five days before Trump, who has vowed unstinting support for Israel, is sworn in as US president.

Israel fears the conference could produce measures that could be put to the Security Council before Trump takes over. The French have insisted they have no such plans.

"France has no other desire than to serve peace, and there is no time to lose," Ayrault said.

Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Tensions are again running high after a wave of Palestinian attacks and Israel's ongoing illegal expansion of settlements on Palestinian land.

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