Vatican focuses on Jerusalem amid United States embassy controversy

It marks the end of eight years of failed US efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault will host an international conference on Middle East peace on January 15 in Paris, bringing together 70 countries and international organizations.

It has been branded a failure even before the doors have opened.

While the Palestinian leadership welcomed the conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had rejected participating first when the talks were proposed, called the Paris meeting “useless”. It’s aimed at presenting Trump with a collective worldwide push for peace once he takes office Friday.

The final draft did not go into any details other than reaffirming U.N. Security Council resolutions, including 2334. “It’s a relic of the past”.

The US state department said Secretary of State John Kerry would be at the meeting to ensure “whatever happens in this conference is constructive and balanced”.

But Kerry and other administration officials fear an even worse scenario emerging: the incoming Trump administration moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and ending Washington’s longstanding opposition to Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians.

The statement also calls on the Palestinians to halt acts of violence, from motivating stabbing attacks at border crossings to launching rockets into Israel, and on the Israelis to stop building Jewish settlements in disputed parts of the West Bank.

Sunday’s conference in Paris comes amid increasing concern from Palestinians over USA president-elect Donald Trump’s unwavering support for Israel. “After 70 years of dispersion and 50 years of occupation, 2017 should be the year for peace and freedom for our people”, Abbas told the French Le Figaro newspaper. “The aim of the conference is precisely to allow a resumption of dialogue”, Ayrault said.

Both Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have been invited to meet with President Francois Hollande to discuss the conclusions of the Paris talks.

Trump has said he will adopt policies that are more sympathetic to Israel. “But little by little, this talk of recognition disappeared”, said Gresh.

Peace efforts have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Last June, France hosted an global meeting – attended by more than two dozen Western and Arab countries – searching for a new strategy to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which have been all but dead for over two years.

Experts agree there is little chance that Sunday’s conference will achieve much.

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State of the United States, spoke about the whole Mid East peace process during his Senate confirmation hearing last week.

Even the organizers know it’s symbolic; no one expects a breakthrough.

“I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world”, Netanyahu said.

Israeli relations with the Vatican were further strained after Pope Francis described President Abbas as “an angel of peace” during the canonisation ceremony of two Palestinian nuns at the Vatican in 2015.

A Palestinian protester throws stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes near Nablus in the occupied West Bank