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EU to push forward with two-state conference, with or without Washington

EU senior officials are planning a two-state conference to be held before the end of the year, with both a bilateral and a multilateral track.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (L) arrive for a meeting on May 15, 2016 during a meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem. Ayrault met Netanyahu before meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas ahead of a French-sponsored Middle East peace process summit in Paris on May 30. Israel has rejected the initiative, the Palestinians support it and the United States has been cold. REUTERS/ MENAHEM KAHANA/Pool - RTSECIO
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European capitals are busy with the organization of an international conference on the two-state solution, which would elaborate on the French Middle East Peace Initiative. Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the preparative conference in Paris June 3. European leaders, including more Israel-leaning countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, agree that the next phase would include both. According to a senior European Union official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, all EU foreign ministers decided to support the French initiative in order to challenge the parties and bolster the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

EU officials believe that not much can come out of such a conference without the United States playing an active role. Therefore, if the United States remains passive, the conference can be only of preliminary nature, to set a policy platform for future negotiations. And so if the conference eventually takes place before a new US president is sworn in (with a lame-duck administration in Washington) — with the United States effectively playing a passive role — Brussels will probably take the lead, to avoid a diplomatic vacuum.

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