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PARIS, June 3. /TASS/. A conference on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement is opening in Paris on Friday. The so-called "external players" - representatives of the Middle East settlement Quartet (Russia, the United States, European Union, United Nations), as well as many European and Arab partners - are expected to attend it. Meanwhile, the conflict sides, Israel and Palestine, will not be present at the conference.
Russia will be represented by the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
The US level of representation has not been determined yet, however, it is possible that Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive come to attend the conference. After all, it was due to his schedule that the talks were postponed from May 30 until June 3.
The conference that is held on the initiative of France, is expected to be a kind of a preparatory stage for convening a large Middle East summit with the participation of both conflict sides - Israel and Palestine - in September this year, and also to discuss the action plan and the timeframe for the creation of two independent states - Israel and Palestine. In addition, the forum participants intend to exchange views and discuss the main issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict settlement: security, construction of settlements by Israel, the problem of demarcation on the ground and other aspects.
Russia's position at the conference remains unchanged and is based on the documents that make the foundation of the Middle East settlement process. Moscow supports the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.
"The resolution, which formed the basis of the establishment of the State of Israel, included the creation of a Palestinian state. All the subsequent UN Security Council resolutions suggest that West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. The international community members, including the Israeli leadership, mean that an independent, territorially integral and viable Palestinian state should be created on these territories," Bogdanov said.
"We fully agree with this position, support this approach of the international community", the Russian deputy foreign minister said. In addition, Moscow has consistently called for the resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel and is willing to promote this.
Israeli officials are watching developments with considerable skepticism and do not hide their negative attitude to the conference beginning on Friday. The Israel side sees no alternative to direct talks with the Palestinians. The Israeli Foreign Ministry compared France’s initiative to hold the conference with the colonial partition of the Middle East 100 years. At the same time, Israel's Ambassador to Moscow Zvi Heifetz declared his country's readiness to sign a peace agreement with Palestine.
"We signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. We are ready to sign peace treaties with all our neighbors, including the closest [neighbor] to us - Palestine", he said.
The Palestinian leadership for its part is more optimistic regarding the conference. The Palestinians believe that the bilateral format of negotiations has exhausted itself, and this conference involving various external players will make it possible to revive the peace process. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Paris in April, fully supported the French initiative.
Experts interviewed by TASS believe that the meeting in Paris is unlikely to help find a consensus between Israel and Palestine. In particular, according to President of the Institute for the Middle East Studies Yevgeny Satanovsky, "It is possible to discuss territorial disputes as long as you like - till doomsday, but there will be no progress without direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.".