Quartet envoy Tony Blair is expected to return to the region in a matter of days to continue the Quartet’s search for a formula that will keep the Palestinians from seeking statehood recognition at the UN in September and enable negotiations to restart.

Blair’s expected visit comes fast on the heels of a high-level Quartet meeting Monday in Washington that failed to result in what many expected would be a joint statement including a formula for getting back to talks.

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Israeli officials declined to discuss whether the reason for the failure to come out with a statement was not only because of gaps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also differences among members of the Quartet themselves. The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Fatah’s commissioner for international relations, Nabil Shaath, as saying Wednesday that Russia “played a crucial role in preventing the Quartet from adopting a stance that calls the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Shaath was quoted as saying that Russia had foiled a call for an Israeli return to the 1967 lines in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Shaath, who praised Russia and its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow also prevented pressure on the Palestinians not to see United Nations recognition in September.

Shaath met Lavrov last week in Moscow.

In advance of Blair’s visit, one Israeli official said Israel was willing – and continues to be willing – to “show flexibility,” an apparent reference to readiness to accept a formula for negotiations based on the 1967 lines, with mutual swaps, if it also included a call for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

The official said Israel was looking for a formula that would be as specific on issues important to Israel – such as the question of Palestinian refuges and security – as it was expected to be on issues important to the Palestinians, such as the baseline of future borders.

If the Palestinians are going to show any flexibility, the official said, it will only be because of calls from the international community.

Regarding the specificity Israel was looking for, the official said Jerusalem would like to see a formula that, if it calls for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines, would also say that the international community believes Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state; that Palestinian refugees should be absorbed outside Israel; and that there have to be security measures on the ground to ensure Israel won’t be attacked from territories from which it will withdraw.



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