Thu Jun 2, 2016 5:27AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in al-Quds (Jerusalem) , on May 31, 2016. © AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in al-Quds (Jerusalem) , on May 31, 2016. © AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up his opposition to a French initiative aimed at reviving talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The path to peace is not via international conferences that attempt to force a settlement, that make the Palestinian demands more extreme and in the process distance peace,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Paris will be hosting on Friday a gathering of more than 20 countries as well as UN and EU diplomats to discuss the Middle East conflict.

The Israeli prime minister reiterated his call for “direct negotiations and without preconditions.”

“If the countries gathering this week in Paris really want to advance peace, they should join my call to Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] to come to such direct negotiations ... There is no other way,” said Netanyahu.

In a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls last month, Netanyahu rejected the initiative, saying direct talks with the Palestinian Authority are “the only way to proceed to peace.”

However, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah dismissed Netanyahu’s proposal, calling it an attempt to “buy time.”

The last round of the so-called peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Tel Aviv’s illegal settlement activities and its refusal to release senior Palestinian prisoners were among major reasons behind the failure of the talks.

The Israeli premier formally suspended the so-called peace talks with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority on April 24, 2014, after Abbas forged a unity pact with Hamas.

Israel responded to the unity pact by announcing tenders for the building of 4,800 illegal settler units on the occupied Palestinian territories.

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds (Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip.

They are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds (Jerusalem).