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Netanyahu Rejects French Peace Initiative, Offers to Meet Abbas

JERUSALEM (AFP) –  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a multilateral French peace initiative as he met his French counterpart on Monday, offering instead to hold direct talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he would speak to President Francois Hollande about Netanyahu’s proposal.

Direct negotiations with the Palestinians are “the only way to proceed to peace,” Netanyahu said. He offered “a different French initiative” of face-to-face talks with Abbas in Paris.

Valls is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to advance his country’s plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Abbas has welcomed the French initiative to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from a range of countries on June 3, without the Israelis and Palestinians present.

Another conference would then be held in the autumn, with the Israelis and Palestinians in attendance. The goal is to eventually restart negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has criticised the initiative and called for direct negotiations between the two sides.

Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to meet Abbas for direct talks.

Palestinians leaders say years of negotiations with Israel have not ended its occupation and have pursued a strategy of diplomacy at international bodies.

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