John Kerry confirms attendance at rescheduled Paris peace summit

(JTA) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that he will attend a summit of foreign ministers in Paris to discuss the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The summit hosted by France was rescheduled for June 3 in order to accommodate Kerry, who could not attend on the original date, May 30, which is Memorial Day in the United States.

On Thursday, Kerry told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels that he had informed French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during a NATO conference that he would attend the summit.

Representatives of some 20 countries will attend. Representatives of Israel and the Palestinians were not invited.

The summit is set to be the run-up to an international peace conference to be held in the French capital this summer that would include Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has called on France to cancel the meeting, saying it gives the Palestinians an excuse to avoid face-to-face negotiations. Netanyahu has called for direct, bilateral negotiations between his country and the Palestinians.

On Sunday, Ayrault met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem to push the plan.

Ayrault angered Israel in January for threatening to recognize a Palestinian state if a Paris-hosted conference failed to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Ayrault backtracked on his statements last month, saying the conference would not “automatically” spur any action.

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