Quartet continues its meetings down to UN wire

Blair says group's goals are to significantly advance Palestinian statehood and to get Israeli- Palestinian negotiations back on track.

By JORDANA HORN, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 20, 2011 04:17
3 minute read.
Quartet members gather for a meeting in Washington

quartet dinner washington. (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

NEW YORK – Diplomatic efforts continued apace behind closed doors Monday to bridge differences between Israelis and Palestinians and potentially undo the United Nations standoff forecast for Friday, at which point Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will bring the question of Palestinian statehood before the Security Council.

Members of the Quartet met over the weekend and will continue to meet down to the wire, former British prime minister Tony Blair told reporters Sunday night, with the hope of restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

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The Quartet’s aims for this week, Blair said, are to significantly advance Palestinian statehood and to get Israeli- Palestinian negotiations back on track.

While Blair did state that the Palestinians were “entitled” to approach the UN unilaterally, he also reasserted the Quartet’s preference for bilateral negotiations.

Blair said Sunday that negotiations would potentially lead to peace that would not be theoretical, but “real and on the ground.”

Blair told reporters that the Palestinians are concerned with the “credibility” of negotiations, and that the Quartet hopes to put together a structure and timeline for negotiations this week.

Diplomatic sources said that Abbas’s public statements of unilateral state-declaring efforts had put the Palestinian leader in a difficult position.

While many said it was not too late for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and to end their pursuit of UN recognition – the Palestinians have yet to submit a formal request to the Security Council – some said Abbas would lose face from such a move.

“It’s a very tall tree Abu Mazen climbed, raising the expectations of his people,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Sunday night. “It’s hard for him to climb down, even though that would be the right thing to do.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the UN General Assembly Monday that the best outcome would be for the Palestinians and Israelis to return to direct negotiations.

“What we want to see is negotiations that bring about a Palestinian state, the so-called two-state solution of Israel being able to live in peace and security but a viable Palestinian state alongside it,” Hague said.

Hague told the General Assembly that the EU has deliberately “withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward.”

Hague said that submitting a letter to the Security Council would “just lead to confrontation,” and that he planned to meet with Blair later in the day Monday.

“It’s not clear how many of the members of the Security Council would support it but it would leave no one any further forward,” Hague said. “Now there are other options for the Palestinians, other motions they can put forward in the General Assembly best of all, as I say, an agreement to return to negotiations with the Israelis, with the Israelis agreeing to that as well. And that is what we will be putting pressure on both sides to do.”

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