A "stubborn" proposal by President-elect Donald Trump to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would involve "very serious consequences" and damage efforts for peace in the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Sunday.
Ayrault spoke at a Paris conference that drew more than 70 diplomats from around the world to press their case for peace through the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The group issued a statement calling for the two sides to officially "re-state their commitment to the two-state solution."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended, but President-elect Donald Trump did not send a representative. The summit did not include Israel or the Palestinians, although they were invited to come to Paris afterward.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been expected to go, but his visit was postponed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to attend, calling the meeting "rigged."
Netanyahu strongly criticized the gathering as a "futile" attempt by France and the Palestinians to force a bad deal on Israel. The conference "pushes peace further away" by hardening Palestinian positions, he said Sunday.
"I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday's world," Netanyahu said. "Tomorrow's world will be different — and it is very near," he said, in reference to Trump's upcoming inauguration on Friday.
Kerry said the U.S. worked to protect Israel from "unfair" treatment at the conference. He said a portion of the statement that condemned attacks on Israelis was added in part because of U.S. pressure.
“We didn't soften it. We did what was necessary to have a balanced resolution," Kerry said.
Trump's controversial proposal to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem drew condemnation from Ayrault.
"When you are president of the United States, you cannot take such a stubborn and such a unilateral view on this issue," Ayrault told France24. "You have to try to create the conditions for peace."
Abbas has warned that peace efforts would be set back if Trump moves the embassy. The move would reverse decades of U.S. policy that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be their capital, but Israel has ruled out dividing the city that serves as its capital.
Sunday's conference was held amid severe tension between Israel and the international community after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month denouncing Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The U.S. declined to veto the resolution, as it has in the past with similar measures, and instead abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.
Hundreds of people rallied Sunday in support of Israel outside its embassy in Paris.
"We are here today to express our objection to the Paris Middle East conference, which we consider an anti-Israeli tribunal, similar to the negative decisions adopted by" the United Nations, Francis Kalifat, who heads a Jewish advocacy group in France, told The Jerusalem Post.