France calls for resumption of peace talks that can lead to Palestinian state

French President Francois Hollande (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attend a news conference following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris June 8. (Reuters)

French President Francois Hollande said on Friday everything must be done to re-launch a long-stalled Middle East peace process that could lead to the recognition of a Palestinian state.

“Today, we must do everything to facilitate the recognition of a Palestinian state via a negotiated process,” Hollande told a news conference following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, according to Reuters.

“I affirm this before President Abbas: dialogue must start again and the sooner the better,” Hollande, flanked by Abbas, said.

Abbas, meanwhile, said that the Palestinians, who saw their full U.N. membership bid rejected by the Security Council, may accept non-member state status.

He told reporters during a Paris visit that if Israel did not resume peace negotiations, “we will of course go to the (U.N.) General Assembly to obtain non-member status, as is the case for the Vatican.”

The Palestinians applied for full membership of the U.N. last September but application hit deadlock at the Security Council where the United States threatened to veto any recommendation in support of the Palestinian bid.

The United States and Israel argue that only direct Palestinian-Israeli talks can produce a definitive peace accord.

Earlier Friday, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations said that Israel’s new surge in settlement building in the Palestinian territories is destroying hopes for any return to peace talks.

“Israel’s illegal actions continue to undermine any and all efforts to resume the peace process, including via direct negotiations,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the U.N. Security Council, according to AFP.

Plans announced this week to build thousands of new settlements inside the West Bank and close to East Jerusalem have angered the Palestinian leadership and been condemned by U.N. envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry and leading U.N. Security Council members.

Mansour called the move “blatant provocation” in a letter to the Security Council calling for international “condemnation and rejection of all of Israel’s illegal settlement activities.”

“It is clear that Israel has chosen to entrench this occupation to the detriment of the Palestinian people, the Israeli people and the prospects for peace between them and in the region as a whole,” Mansour said.

The city of Jerusalem is seeking to expand the settlement of Gilo beyond annexed east Jerusalem. Israel also announced plans to add hundreds of new settlement homes elsewhere in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has stepped up calls for the U.N. Security Council to visit the Palestinian territories.

Non-Aligned Movement countries on the council said they would propose the visit, which has been opposed in the past by the United States and Israel.

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