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Two-state solution reaffirmed at Paris talks

A two-state solution remains the only way to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, a peace conference in Paris has concluded.

Some 70 countries attended the talks and both sides were urged not to pursue unilateral action that could damage negotiations.

But the UK expressed reservations about the final communique and did not sign the joint statement, saying it risked “hardening positions”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain was still committed to a two-state solution but was concerned the conference was “taking place against the wishes of the Israelis”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was at the conference
Image Caption:
US Secretary of State John Kerry was at the conference

Britain attended only as an “observer”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called the talks “futile” and “a last gasp of the past” – neither the Israelis or the Palestinians were represented.

He insists only direct talks with the Palestinians can bring peace.

The final communique did not explicitly criticise plans by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Barbed wire fence
Fresh push for Middle East peace

Senior members of the Palestinian leadership have warned it could spell the end of the two-state solution.

“We hope that this news is not true, because it is not encouraging and will disrupt and hinder the peace process,” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.

Up until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Jerusalem was divided, but after six days of fighting Israel conquered the eastern half of the city from Jordan.

Israel considers the whole of the city as its “eternal, undivided capital”, but East Jerusalem is considered occupied under international law.

Palestinians hope the eastern part will one day be their capital if their dream of a future independent state is realised.

A placard in Tel Aviv soon after the election of Donald Trump
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A placard in Tel Aviv: Donald Trump has pledged greater support for Israel

For the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem then would be controversial as it could be viewed as de facto recognition of Israel’s claim.

The conference, five days before Mr Trumps inauguration, was seen as a platform to send a strong signal that the two-state solution would not be compromised.

The final communique called on “each side … to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees”.

A French diplomatic source told Reuters: “It’s a tortuous and complicated paragraph to pass a subliminal message to the Trump administration.”

Relations between the US and Israel have deteriorated under Barack Obama.

They reached their nadir last month when Washington did not veto a UN resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Mr Trump has pledged greater support for Israel when he takes office, urging the country to “stay strong”.

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