The Quartet urged Israelis and Palestinians to take significant steps to achieve a two-state solution, but did not initiate a new peace process when it met on the sidelines of the opening of the 70th UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.
There is a “common effort to restart the engine of the peace process,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after the meeting.
The most viable way forward, she said, is to focus on “concrete steps on the ground, and in particular on encouraging the parties to start implementing the already signed agreements.”
Trust and confidence must be rebuilt, not just among the Israelis and Palestinians, but also in the process itself, she said.
The peace process has been frozen since April 2014. Israel has called for an immediate resumption of direct talks, but the Palestinians are refusing to do so through direct negotiations as long as Israel is an “occupying power.”
The Palestinian Authority prefers to hold talks through a multilateral process that includes a settlement freeze, the release of prisoners, and an Israeli agreement to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.
On Wednesday, Abbas threatened to annul the Oslo Accords – which have governed relations between the Israeli and Palestinian government for more than two decades – until these condition are met.
“For sure it’s an alarm. It’s a serious one,” Mogherini said.
She explained that Abbas had informed her of the details of his General Assembly address when the two met in New York on Monday.
“I have interpreted these words as a scenario that is going to happen if – and there is an ‘if.’ Now, on that ‘if’ we will have to work,” she said.
She called on the “Israeli leadership to have concrete steps on the ground to implement the agreements that are already there” and asked the “Palestinian leadership to engage in national reconciliation and in direct negotiations.”
On Wednesday, she said, the Quartet principals (the EU, the US, the UN, and Russia) met with representatives from Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
It will be consulting with foreign ministers from those countries as well as the secretary-general of the Arab League.
Moving forward, she said, it is important for regional players to be involved in the process.
“A regional security framework can be extremely useful and interesting for all the parties, not only of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, but also in the region and worldwide,” she said.
In its statement the Quartet also called for accelerated efforts to address the “dire situation in Gaza.”
Acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis, ongoing settlement activity, the high rate of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures, imperil the “viability of the two state solution,” it said.
“The Quartet condemned in the strongest possible terms violence against Israeli and Palestinian civilians and reiterated that unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of a negotiated solution,” it said.
It also expressed its “deep concern” over the recent violence on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. All parties, the Quartet said, should “exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve unchanged the status quo at the holy sites in both word and practice.”
Mogherini told reporters that there is a “possibility of a dramatic inflammation of Jerusalem. The risk that if we don’t act, if the leaders on the ground don’t act, this can be a major source of radicalization, not only in the region, but worldwide,” Mogherini said, adding it is urgent to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
“This is not something unrelated to what we were discussing this morning in the Security Council on the fight against terrorism and Da’esh [ISIS],” she said.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said, “seems to be the ‘little’ crisis that has been there for decades. Still, maybe today, out of all the crises we have in front of us, that is the one that is possible to solve; if we have enough leadership, enough political will and enough international and regional support to push in that direction.”
On Wednesday night she met with Netanyahu, who told her he is ready to immediately resume negotiations with Abbas.