tony blair presidential conference 2009.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Quartet officials will take yet another stab over the next two days at
kick-starting the stalemated diplomatic process, meeting separately in Jerusalem
with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in an effort to convince the latter
to agree to a direct meeting.
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The Quartet officials – expected to include
Quartet envoy Tony Blair, US envoy David Hale, Helga Schmid from the EU, the
UN’s Robert Serry, and a Russian representative – are scheduled to meet on
Wednesday with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
A meeting originally
planned for Wednesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak
Molcho may now not take place until Thursday because Molcho is expected to be in
Egypt on Wednesday facilitating the exchange of Ilan Grapel
for 25 Egyptian prisoners.
The latest effort at restarting
negotiations comes three days after the sides missed a deadline for the first
direct meeting the Quartet called for in its framework for returning to talks,
which it released at the UN on September 23. That framework calls for an
agreement between the two sides by the end of 2012.
On the eve of the
Quartet meetings, an Israeli government source said that Israel embraced the
Quartet call “for a resumption of talks without preconditions, and hope that the
Quartet officials will expedite that goal.”
Asked about various reports
over the last few days that Netanyahu might be willing to curtail settlement
construction to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the
official would say only that as the diplomatic process progresses, “Israel will
be willing to show good faith.”
At the same time, the official said that
the Palestinian Authority cannot abandon negotiations, take unilateral moves at
the UN, and then “ask us to behave as if they are a peace partner.”
PA has said repeatedly it will only reenter direct talks if Israel freezes all
settlement construction beyond the Green Line, and agrees that the baseline of
the future talks will be a Palestinian state within the pre-1967
Even before the Quartet team arrived, Maja Kocijancic, a
spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was quoted by AFP as
chiding Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for saying a day earlier that it
would be a “blessing” if PA President Mahmoud Abbas carried out his oft-repeated
threat and resigned.
Lieberman’s remarks, she said, “are regrettably not
helpful to create the environment of trust conducive to
negotiations.” The EU valued Abbas’s “central role” and commitment “to a
just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Kocijancic
President Shimon Peres also alluded to Lieberman’s comments, saying
during a meeting with a group including US actor Jason Alexander that the PA
leadership headed by Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, was “professional,
serious and wants peace.” Israel “must continue to negotiate with [Abbas], who
represents moderate forces,” Peres said.