French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were represented at the conference, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed as “futile”.
Opening the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the international community wanted to “forcefully reiterate that the two-state solution is the only solution possible” to the seven-decade-old conflict.
He also warned the US president-elect against relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a move to recognise the contested city as Israel's capital.
Ayrault said such a move, which Trump promised during campaigning, would have “extremely serious consequences” and predicted the incoming US leader would find it impossible to implement.
“When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue. You have to try to create the conditions for peace,” he told France 3 TV.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation welcomed the closing statement of Sunday's Middle East peace conference “which stressed the need to end the Israeli occupation,” PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat said.
But Israel criticised the conference as a “useless” event, saying it would distance prospects of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“International conferences and UN resolutions only distance peace (prospects) since they encourage the Palestinians to continue to refuse direct talks with Israel,” the foreign ministry said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that the US had negotiated at the Paris Middle East peace conference to prevent Israel being treated unfairly.
“We came in here and where we thought it was unbalanced and where we thought it was not expressing the kind of unity that I talked about, we fought to address it,” he said. “We didn't soften it. We did what was necessary to have a balanced resolution. And if you look at it, it speaks in positive ways, rather than negative, to both sides.”
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Kerry confirmed that he had spoken to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Paris meeting to reassure him.
Britain cited “reservations” over the conference and refused to sign a joint statement that called for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the British had “particular reservations” about the meeting in Paris taking place without Israeli or Palestinian representatives, “just days before the transition to a new American president”.
The PLO also called on conference host France “to immediately recognise the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital,” and urged all the countries that attended the meeting in Paris to “recognise
Palestine in line with their recognition of Israel”.
The conference's closing statement called on both sides to avoid “unilateral steps” and stressed that the basis for negotiations should be should be the 1967 borders, before Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Both Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have been invited to meet with President Francois Hollande to discuss the conclusions of the Paris talks.
Abbas, who has backed the conference, is expected to travel to Paris in the coming weeks but Netanyahu has rejected the offer, French diplomats said.
The Israeli premier on Sunday again heaped criticism on the conference, calling it “futile.”
“It was coordinated between the French and the Palestinians with the aim of imposing upon Israel conditions that are incompatible with our national needs,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting.