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France to host Middle East peace conference

Talks to take place without Israeli and Palestinian participation which France believes will ease negotiations later.

An international conference aimed at reviving peace efforts between Palestinians and Israelis is set to take place on June 3 in Paris, according to Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's foreign minister.

The initiative to relaunch peace efforts was launched by France late last month. Egypt offered to serve as a mediator, saying it would "make every effort" towards a solution.

The ministerial-level talks will host the Middle East Quartet, which includes the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, as well as the Arab League, the UN Security Council and about 20 countries, without Israeli or Palestinian participation.

The French hope that beginning with non-direct talks could help ease the way for an agreement later.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, welcomed the French and Egyptian efforts on Thursday, saying he would attend the international conference in Paris.

"I told [the French] that I would be there," Kerry said after discussing the June 3 date with Ayrault.

"What we are seeking to do is to help encourage the parties to be able to see a way forward, so that they can understand that peace is indeed a possibility."

While the Palestinians have welcomed the efforts, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, says his country is opposed to an international conference, insisting on direct negotiations.

Kerry said any peace effort would require compromise from both sides.

"In the end, ... the parties themselves have to make the decision to actually negotiate, and in that clearly there will have to be some compromise," he said.

For his part, Ayrault gave warning that the situation on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians is "deteriorating every day".

"We do not want to resign ourselves to this spiral of violence that affects both the Israelis and the Palestinians," he said.

US efforts to broker a two-state deal collapsed in April 2014.

In the latest wave of violence since October, the Israeli army has killed at least 206 Palestinians, including protesters, bystanders and alleged attackers, while 33 Israelis have been killed in stabbing and shooting incidents.

Palestinian leaders say a younger generation sees no hope for the future living under Israeli security restrictions and with a stifled economy.


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