Senior Quartet representatives will meet in Washington on Wednesday amid little
expectation that they will have more luck this time kick-starting direct
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and Quartet envoy Tony Blair
will meet on the sidelines of the G-8 foreign ministers’ meeting in Washington
and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process.
Blair and US
Middle East envoy David Hale were in the region last week holding meetings with
the sides and preparing for the Quartet parley.
The meeting comes as a
framework for entering into negotiations that the Quartet unfurled in September
at the UN failed to bear fruit. That framework did lead to low-level talks under
Jordanian auspices in January, but that round ended on January 25 with the
Palestinians saying they would only continue if Israel stopped all settlement
construction, accepted the June 5, 1967, lines as the baseline for future talks
and released a number of Fatah prisoners incarcerated before the Oslo accords.
Israel refused those preconditions.
The September Quartet framework
called for an initial meeting between the two sides within 30 days, leading to
the trading of comprehensive proposals on security and territory within three
months, and an overall agreement by the end of 2012.
The Quartet, whose
overall effectiveness has been increasingly questioned because of Russian-US
rivalries that often play out and render reaching consensus decisions difficult,
last met at this level in March amid the fighting in the South. At that meeting,
where Ashton and Blair joined via video conference, the Quartet issued a bland
statement expressing “concern” about the violence in the South and calling on
the Israelis and Palestinians to “remain engaged” and “refrain from provocative
US ambassador Dan Shapiro told The Jerusalem Post last week
that the Quartet wanted to see the discussions that began in Jordan “continue
and get increasingly into the core issues.”
Shapiro said efforts continue
to “get the parties to feel that they can have the kind of discussion that
ultimately could produce progress on some of these core issues – territory and
security being the first pair, and then moving to other issues.”
the prospects for immediate breakthroughs “are probably not very bright, that
doesn’t mean you can’t make some progress, and set the groundwork for larger
progress at some period of time,” Shapiro said.
There will likely be
“continuity” between the Quartet’s statement in September and what will emerge
from Wednesday’s meeting in Washington, the US envoy said.
On the eve of
the Quartet meeting, the PA announced that it was seeking a UN Security Council
resolution condemning continued construction in West Bank settlements and east
On Monday, the PA envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, submitted a
letter to the Security Council members and Ban, calling on them to condemn
settlement activity Riyad al-Maliki told Agence France Press.
He said that the letter called
for “urgent measures to put pressure on the occupying power, which is Israel, to
compel it to stop these actions and policies immediately.”
according to Maliki, warns that Israel’s “illegal and destructive plans not only
inflame tensions but further underscore the dubious nature of the occupying
power’s claims of readiness to negotiate a peace settlement.”
accuses Israel of working toward destroying the two-state solution with its
continuing illegal settlement campaign.