Number 10 Downing declined to send its senior ministers to Paris on Sunday, making it clear that for the moment, at least, it won’t support any major moves against Israel in an international forum.
Last week senior advisers to President-elect Donald Trump reportedly told French government officials in a meeting at Trump Tower they “strenuously objected” to the Paris conference, scheduled just five days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration into office and presenting what the president-elect sees as unfair pressure on Israel along with an unjustified reward to Ramallah.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not attend the summit, nor did the UK Ambassador to France, according to a report published Sunday by The Guardian. Likewise, Canada announced that it, too, would refrain from sending senior government officials to the conference.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was scheduled to attend, as was Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, along with his counterparts from Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Turkey and Sweden. Of the 74 delegations that were scheduled to attend, only 36 included foreign ministers.
Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled from Vietnam to attend the summit, where he was expected to speak.
French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault said in his opening remarks that he was aware of the doubts about whether the conference should have been held.
But Ayrault also reiterated his support for last month’s UN Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s presence in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and in much of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Ayrault said there is NO solution other than the “two state solution” and said the conference was aimed at seeing how the participants can “contribute” to the relaunching of peace talks.
Ayrault also told France 3 television later in the day that President-elect Trump’s promise to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be considered a “provocation.”
Ayrault said “I don’t think he will be able to do it,” adding that such a move would have “extremely serious consequences.”
The French official said “It’s not the first time that it’s on the agenda of a U.S. president, but none have let themselves make that decision.”
Ayrault went on to say, “One cannot have such a clear-cut, unilateral position. You have to create the conditions for peace.”
A draft of the summit declaration seen by the DPA news agency called for “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”
Hana Levi Julian