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France wants a conference on Israel-Palestine, without Israel or Palestine present

Another round of peace talks for the Middle East have begun, this time for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but without the involvement of the two key players.

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    French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (l.) welcomes US Secretary of State John Kerry upon his arrival for an international and interministerial conference in Paris on June 3. Another round of peace talks for the Middle East have begun, this time for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but without the involvement of the two key players – Israel and Palestine.
    Stephane de Sakutin/Pool peace summit Horizontal/Reuters
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World powers are gathering in Paris Friday for talks on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and all the usual suspects have been invited, with two exceptions. 

Israel and Palestine have not been invited. 

This peace conference is set to expand the stalled peace process, which has become mostly a three-player show between the United States, Israel, and Palestine. Organizers hope to offer a more decisive role to the Arab states, who have sent representatives, and to Europe, which wants to use its economic power as leverage for diplomatic power, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

"On incentives, it is the European Union that has them, for the two sides," Federica Mogherini, the EU representative for Foreign Affairs, told reporters.

France organized the talks, which appears to seek a solution from the outside by bringing together representatives from 26 nations. But Europe's role in resolving this Middle Eastern conflict has not played well historically, says Roby Barrett, a scholar at the nonpartisan Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. 

"The British already tried this during the Mandate period, and it didn't work, and they even had control then," Dr. Barrett tells The Christian Science Monitor. 

When asked about the viability of such talks, however, French diplomats "shrug" and say, "We have to do something," as The Washington Post reports. 

Roughly 30 Israelis have died since September in Palestinian attacks that many fear precede another war. Meanwhile, Palestinian officials say that some 200 Palestinians, most of them alleged attackers, have died.

Amid the threat of Islamic State in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria, the continuing war in Yemen, the refugee crisis in Europe, and an unusual US presidential race, however, some fear the longstanding conflict risks being forgotten, despite its role in numerous related issues, and that chances of a two-state solution are fading out of sight. 

Without peace talks, "the void will be aggressively filled by extremists," French President François Hollande told attendees, according to the Journal. 

Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution, the special envoy for ­Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Secretary of State John Kerry's unsuccessful peace talks in 2014, told The Washington Post it was important to keep hope alive, but he had some doubts about the format. 

"There are some troubling aspects to the French approach, which creates the impression that the international community is seeking to impose a solution, or at least a deadline for negotiating a solution," he told The Post. 

Palestinian and Israeli leaders have accepted their exclusion differently. Israelis, who insist direct talks between the two involved parties are needed instead, are concerned about Mr. Kerry's attendance, as well as the prospect of limits on settlement construction. The conference was rescheduled to accommodate his calendar. 

Yet Barrett believes that Israel's leaders are in no position to compromise, given their current political mandates. The talks may not be successful, he says, but could ultimately hurt Israel if Arab nations highlight their willingness to negotiate. 

Palestinian leaders have expressed interest in the peace talks, which could try to set a deadline for future talks involving Israel and Palestine. They are especially heartened by a French suggestion of unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood, should the talks fail, which would make France the first European country to do so, The Post reports. 

 
 
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