UK refuses to sign Paris declaration, warns summit may harden Palestinian positions

Breaking ranks with 70 other nations, London laments that confab held without Israelis and Palestinians, ‘just days before transition to new US president’

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Dramatically breaking ranks with participants from 70 other countries, the United Kingdom criticized Sunday’s Middle East peace conference in Paris, arguing that it might harden Palestinian negotiating positions and refusing to sign a joint statement issued after the summit that called for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Foreign Office spokesman said London had “particular reservations” about the Paris meeting taking place without Israeli or Palestinian representatives, especially since a new US administration is being sworn in later this week.

Indeed, the spokesman’s statement noted that the confab took place against Israel’s expressed wishes and “just days before the transition to a new American president when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement.”

“There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace.”

Due to these concerns, Britain had attended the Paris talks as an observer only and refused to sign the joint declaration issued after the conference, the spokesman said.

“We will continue to support efforts to improve conditions on the ground to enable negotiations to resume and look forward to working with the parties, the new US Administration and other countries represented in this conference to make progress in 2017 and beyond,” the spokesperson added.

The surprising statement appeared to align London’s position on the conference with Israel’s. Jerusalem repeatedly decried the event as a futile exercise that, if anything, will make peace harder to achieve. (Click to Article)

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