US cool to French Mideast peace conference

US cool to French Mideast peace conference

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacted coolly to a French plan to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, saying Monday that any such arrangement must be tied to a willingness of both sides to resume direct negotiations, dpa reported.

"We strongly support a return to negotiations, but we do not think that it would be productive for there to be a conference about returning to negotiations," Clinton said after meeting with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

"There has to be a return to negotiations, which will take a lot of persuasion and preliminary work in order to set up a productive meeting between the parties," Clinton added.

Juppe met with Clinton after travelling to the Middle East last week and presented a plan for France to host a peace conference before September, when the Palestinians have pledged to seek a UN resolution recognizing Palestine. There is a concern such a move would undermine talks with Israel, something Clinton and Juppe agreed must be avoided.

Juppe said there would need to be good preparation for his proposed conference to ensure the Israelis and Palestinians are serious about resuming negotiations, which broke off in September 2010.

"We are only going to have this conference if there's sufficient work done so that it is well-prepared," Juppe said.

Clinton was to also meet separately Monday with the top Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators, Isaac Molho and Saeb Erekat, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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