Macron says ‘too early’ to judge US Middle East peace efforts

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to wait and see what proposals emerge for the region from the Trump administration.

In the meantime, Israel should “make gestures towards the Palestinians,” such as freezing the construction of settlements, Macron said. French diplomacy is currently focused on seeking stability in Lebanon and developing a political process in Syria once Islamic State has been fully vanquished.

“It is preferable not to multiply initiatives because they end up cannibalising each other,” Macron said Sunday at a press conference in Paris with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We are favourable for waiting weeks, months, to see what emerges.”

Previous French leaders, feeling the US was stalling action on behalf of its ally, Israel, have tried to start initiatives to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinians, only to give up. Netanyahu said Sunday he’s always willing to sit down and negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The two leaders differed on President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that the US will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Macron said the action went against international law and was a “danger for peace,” while Netanyahu said it would help bring peace.

Reality grip

“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with reality, the sooner we will find peace,” Netanyahu said. He added that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.

“There’s nothing new that Mr Netanyahu considers Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel,” Macron said. “What’s new is that a powerful outside country unilaterally recognises something that goes against international law.”

Before heading to Paris, Netanyahu had accused European leaders of double standards for criticising Trump’s move but not denouncing the violent protests and attacks that ensued in Israel and Israeli-occupied territory. Macron began his comments by condemning all acts of violence against Israel, and Netanyahu said his comments weren’t aimed at Macron.

Netanyahu, who has urged other countries to follow Trump’s lead on the contested holy city, is scheduled to meet foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU in Brussels on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, Macron’s office said the president talked by telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and urged him to tone down his reaction to Trump’s decision. In the Saturday call, Macron and he shared Erdogan’s opposition to Trump’s move and “underlined the necessity to avoid negative repercussions throughout the region and to contribute to an easing of tensions, to restore chances of peace,” his office said in a statement.

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