Netanyahu tells French FM his country still opposes peace conference

2016-05-15 11:59:36 GMT2016-05-15 19:59:36(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Sunday that his country still opposes Paris's efforts to revive the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The initiative, to convene an international peace conference to reignite the negotiations, was endorsed by the Palestinians and instantaneously rejected by Israel.

As part of France's bid to push forward with the initiative, Ayrault met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

In the meeting, Netanyahu reiterated Israel's opposition to the bid. "I told him that the only way to advance a true peace between us and the Palestinians is by means of direct negotiations between us and them, without preconditions," he said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

"Our experience with history shows that only this way did we achieve peace with Egypt and Jordan, and that any other attempt only makes peace more remote and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict which is non-recognition of the State of Israel," he said.

Netanyahu also slammed Paris's support for a recent resolution by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, which didn't acknowledge the Jewish links to the site.

He told the French minister that the France-supported resolution "casts a shadow on the fairness" of the peace bid.

"(Ayrault) told me that this decision stemmed from a misunderstanding and that he would personally see to it that it does not recur," Netanyahu said.

Ayrault was echoing Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who backtracked on the decision on Wednesday, telling the parliament it was "clumsy" and "unfortunate."

The April 15 resolution by the Paris-based UNESCO referred to the hilltop site in "occupied Palestine" and to Israel as the "occupying power."

It made no reference to the Jewish history of the site, which Jews revere as the place of their historic temples, that last of which was ruined by the Romans in 70 AD. Today, the compound is holy to both Muslims, who know it as Haram al-Sharif (or "The Noble Sanctuary") and to Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount.