British diplomats have expressed reservations about the outcome of a Middle East peace conference in Paris, saying it risked "hardening positions".

While the French-led conference involved some 70 countries, it did not involve any Israeli or Palestinian representatives. 

The closing declaration at the conference in Paris urged both sides to "officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution". 

It also warned them against taking one-sided actions that could hurt talks, in an apparent reference to Israeli settlement building. 

But Britain, which attended as an observer, did not back the final communique.

A Foreign Office statement said: "We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them - indeed which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis - and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American President when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement.

"There are risks therefore that this conference hardens positions at a time when we need to be encouraging the conditions for peace."

Meanwhile, Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu derided the talks as “useless”.

Speaking to his cabinet about the conference, he said: "Its goal is to try and force terms on Israel that conflict with our national needs. Of course it pushes peace further away because it hardens the Palestinian positions and it also pushes them away from direct negotiations without preconditions.”

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