The Latest: Kerry backs "2-nation" solution for Mideast

Posted at 11:39 AM, Jan 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-15 14:39:50-05

The Latest on a Paris conference on Mideast peace (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is defending an international call for renewed efforts at Mideast peace.

Kerry, speaking to reporters after taking part in a peace conference Sunday in Paris, rejected Israeli criticism of the meeting, saying the concept of a two-state solution to the conflict is "threatened" and must be reinforced if it is ever to happen. The conference's final communique, he said, endorses a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians without imposing a resolution.

Kerry said it was significant that the statement recognizes both the need to end Palestinian incitement and violence as well as Israel's security needs.

Kerry expressed concern about the incoming Trump administration's intention to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something the Palestinians and the Arab world have strongly warned against.

He says "this is not the right time ... they don't have peace, there are issues of sovereignty that are enormously important to be resolved by the parties."


6:45 p.m.

The Palestinians have welcomed the closing statement from the Mideast peace conference in Paris calling on both Israel and the Palestinians to restate their commitment to a peace settlement and to refrain from unilateral actions.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Sunday's statement issued by more than 70 countries amounted to a rejection of Israel's occupation and settlement construction in captured territories. He says it sends a message that Israel "cannot achieve peace and stability" without ending its occupation.

Erekat urged U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to support the statement and last month's U.N. Security Council resolution that declared Israeli settlements illegal.

Trump has rejected the U.N. Security Council's resolution and signaled he will be more tolerant of Israeli settlement construction.


6:15 p.m.

France's foreign minister says moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from its current place in Tel Aviv would be a "provocation" and a threat to efforts for a two-state solution to the protracted Mideast conflict.

Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault closed a Mideast peace conference in Paris on Sunday insisting that much of the world wants revived negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

He cautioned U.S. President-elect Donald Trump against moving the U.S. embassy before new peace negotiations can be held. The move could be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital after decades of insisting that the city's status must be determined by direct talks.

Ayrault said France would work to maintain good relations with the Trump administration but stressed French fears that an embassy move will unleash new Mideast violence.


6 p.m.

More than 70 countries have called on Israel and the Palestinians to restate their commitment to a peace settlement and to refrain from unilateral actions.

The closing statement at a Mideast peace conference in Paris on Sunday was meant to send a powerful message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration to keep hopes alive for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump's campaign platform made no mention of Palestinian independence — the solution favored by the international community.

The statement urged both sides to "officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution" and disassociate from voices that reject this. It also called for them not to take one-side actions that could prejudge talks.

While the Palestinians welcomed the conference, Israel called it "rigged."


2:30 p.m.

Sending a forceful message to Israel and the incoming Trump administration, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to say they want peace in the Mideast — and that establishing a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve it.

French President Francois Hollande said he was sounding an "alert" that peace talks should be revived for "the security of Israel, security of all the region" before violent extremists and Israeli settlements destroy any hope of a two-state solution.

While the Palestinians welcomed Sunday's conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "rigged" and cooked up behind Israel's back to force it to accept conditions against national interests.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's administration did not take part, and even the conference organizers weren't expecting any breakthroughs.


11:30 a.m.

French diplomats fear President-elect Donald Trump will unleash new tensions in the Mideast by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.

The French president warned Trump against any "improvised" or destabilizing actions after he takes office Friday.

"It is not a question of dictating to the parties," Francois Hollande insisted, acknowledging Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu's hostility toward the conference. "Only direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace. No one will do it in their place."

"The world cannot, should not, resign itself to the status quo," he told diplomats Sunday in Paris who came from across Europe, the Mideast and other regions.

Hollande urged them to support peace efforts by offering economic incentives to Israelis and Palestinians.


10:30 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been increasingly outspoken about Mideast tensions, was in Paris defending American interests at the conference in his last major diplomatic foray before he leaves office.

The conference marked the end of eight years of failed U.S. efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu declined an invitation to a special meeting after the conference, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was initially expected, but his visit to Paris was postponed.

The Israeli prime minister said the gathering would do little to promote peace and marked the "last flutters of yesterday's world."

"Tomorrow will look different and tomorrow is very close," he said in apparent reference to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration.

Palestinian officials hope the conference can lay out terms for eventual negotiations, notably on how to share Jerusalem and the need to stop Israeli settlements.


8 a.m.

According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press, the Paris Mideast peace conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians "to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution."

It also will affirm that the international community "will not recognize" changes to Israel's pre-1967 lines without agreement by both sides.

A draft circulating Sunday did not include direct reference to moving the U.S. embassy, a move that could be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital after decades of insisting that the city's status must be determined by direct negotiations.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not negotiated even indirectly since a failed U.S.-led peace effort in 2014.

While the conference was underway, a few hundred pro-Israel demonstrators, waving Israeli flags and placards denouncing the summit, gathered outside Israel's embassy in Paris.

"The Palestinians and a number of Arab states have not expressed a will for peace," Serge Klarsfeld, a well-known famous French Nazi hunter, said.