French-led peace talks on the Middle East will take place on June 3 in Paris, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday, after a scheduling conflict scuttled an initially intended date in late May.
The new date will allow "everyone to participate," Ayrault told journalists in Brussels, after holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
The first date of May 30 was postponed to accommodate Kerry's schedule.
"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."
The ministerial-level talks are to include representatives of the so-called Quartet, which includes the U.S., Russia, the United Nations and European Union, as well as representatives from Arab and European nations.
The initiative is to convene important partners, but exclude Israeli and Palestinian authorities. The French hope that beginning with non-direct talks could help ease the way for an agreement later.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is opposed to an international conference, insisting on direct negotiations. The Palestinians have welcomed the French effort.
"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," Kerry said.
Ayrault warned that the situation on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians is "deteriorating every day."
The conference would be an opportunity to "re-affirm the mobilization of the international community in favour of a two-state solution," the French Foreign Ministry said.
"We do not want to resign ourselves to this spiral of violence that affects both the Israelis and the Palestinians," Ayrault noted.
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