December 17, 2016 / 2:27 PM / 8 months ago

France postpones Middle East peace conference to January

PARIS (Reuters) - France has postponed a proposed Middle East peace conference in Paris to January next year, its ambassador to the United Nations said, acknowledging that the conditions to bring Israelis and Palestinians face-to-face were currently not there.

France has repeatedly tried to breathe new life into the peace process this year, holding a preliminary conference in June where the United Nations, European Union, United States and major Arab countries gathered to discuss proposals without the Israelis or Palestinians present.

The plan was to hold a follow-up conference before the end of the year with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas involved to see whether the two sides could be brought back to negotiations and revive moribund peace talks.

Netanyahu had repeatedly rejected the conference proposal and with attendance from the United States in doubt holding such a meeting appeared complicated.

"After nearly a year of efforts, France will hold during January an international conference bringing together all the states attached to (seeking) peace," Ambassador Francois Delattre said in remarks carried by the foreign ministry on Saturday.

"Everyone knows that only the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to conclude a peace directly, but we have to recognise today that the conditions are not in place today to restart the negotiations."

It was not clear from Delattre's comments whether France still intended to try to bring Netanyahu and Abbas to the negotiating table in the French capital.

The conference of foreign ministers was aimed at agreeing on a joint statement that would reaffirm the two-state solution on the basis of pre-1967 borders and according to Security Council resolutions, diplomats have said.

The last U.S.-backed talks ended in failure in April 2014 and the outgoing administration appears unwilling to tackle the issue before President-elect Donald Trump takes over on Jan. 20.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Jason Neely

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