As Washington brainstorms with outside experts on how to jump-start the stymied
diplomatic process in the Middle East, the European Union announced that the
Quartet will hold a meeting February 5 on the sidelines of a meeting in Munich
to discuss the situation.
The Quartet – comprised of the US, EU, UN and
Russia – last met to discuss the diplomatic situation in September, just prior
to the break-off of direct talks after the expiration of the 10-month settlement
freeze.RELATED:Clinton: Israel makes its own decisions on peaceErekat: Peace talks with Israeli government have ended
The February meeting, announced by a German government spokesman
Friday, will take place in the background of a major annual security conference,
and will be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The meeting will come amid a
period of increasing regional volatility and instability, following the week’s
turmoil in Lebanon and Tunisia.
The meeting also comes as the White House
reportedly has set up a task force led by former national Security advisors
Sandy Berger, who served under Bill Clinton, and Stephen Hadley, who was George
Bush’s national security advisor, to offer suggestions to the current National
US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, whose visits to
the region have decreased even as White House aide Denis Ross has been here
twice in the last month, held separate talks in Washington Thursday with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzchak Molcho, and the PA’s chief
negotiator Saeb Erekat.
There was no announcement made after those
meetings of when Mitchell would return to the region.
spokesman PJ Crowley said of the discussions that “at the working level, we are
working on the core issues. We’re trying to narrow the gaps that exist. I would
expect that we’ll have similar engagements, and this is all trying to build a
foundation, improve trust, and try to move the parties back to direct
negotiations. This is an effort that will continue.”
went on the record opposing Palestinian efforts towards bringing a resolution
slamming Israeli settlement activity to the UN Security Council.
whether Erekat and Mitchell discussed a draft resolution on the matter, Crowley
said “We have had and continue to have conversations with the Palestinians on
that question.” He also said that “it is our belief that New York is the wrong
forum to address these complex issues, that the parties should work to find a
way back to direct negotiations as the only way to resolve these difficult
issues and the conflict once and for all.”