JERUSALEM, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Israel has rejected France's invitation for a Middle East peace conference in Paris later this year and instead reiterated hopes to meet directly with Palestinians.
French envoy Pierre Vimont was informed of Israel's intentions at a meeting Monday with Israel's acting national security adviser and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic adviser in Jerusalem.
"[They] told the French envoy in a clear and unequivocal manner that Israel's position to promote the peace process and reach an agreement will only come through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
Despite Israel's statement, the French foreign ministry said it's still planning the conference before the end of the year. The Palestinians have said they would attend the Paris conference.
"If the Israeli government would decide to come to such a conference, it would be a perfect arena so that everyone, at last, would think that the commitment by the Israeli government to a two-state solution is genuine, sincere and deeply based and grounded in strong convictions," Vimont said Sunday.
France has spearheaded efforts since peace talks broke down in 2014.
In June, it hosted the United Nations, European Union, United States and major Arab countries to discuss ideas without the Israelis or Palestinians present.
Israel doesn't want an international conference because it fears it will give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a place to grandstand, rather than engaging directly with the Israelis.
"Any other initiative, including this one, will only distance peace from the region," Netanyahu's office said.
For nearly 50 years Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Vimont is hopeful of cooperation outside of the conference.
Russia has called for a meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas, he said. On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev is scheduled arrive in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu is watching with interest the U.S. election for president.
"We expect that the U.S. will remain faithful to the principle that it has set over many years, that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute can be resolved only by direct negotiations without preconditions and, of course, not in decisions by the U.N. or other international institutions," Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meetingn Sunday.
"Whoever is elected the new president, I am convinced that U.S.-Israel relations, which are solid and strong, will not only remain as such, but will strengthen further."
Netanyahu noted Israel "is developing relations with many other countries including the world's major powers."