tony blair presidential conference 2009.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Quartet representatives will meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian
officials on October 26 and press them to present their ideas on security
arrangements and borders for a two-state solution within three months, said Tony
Blair, the Quartet envoy to the Middle East, on Wednesday.
meetings will be held in Jerusalem, three days past the deadline the Quartet set
at the UN on September 23 for a direct “preparatory meeting” between the two
sides aimed at restarting direct negotiations.
Blair said the September
23 statement had also called on the parties to set out their “detailed proposals
on borders and security in three months.”
“If we can get the parties to
agree to do this, then within three months we’ll know where everyone stands on
two of the central issues,” Blair told Reuters.
“If we can get to a point
where within three months you see what the parties’ proposals are on the
borders, you’d see where the gaps are. And that would be in my view a huge
advance,” he said.
The Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN –
issued its framework for restarting the talks last month on the day that
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally submitted the Palestinian
request to the Security Council to be accepted as a UN member state.
Quartet proposed a “preparatory meeting” between the parties within a month to
agree to an agenda and “method of proceeding in the negotiation.” That meeting
proved impossible to arrange.
Government officials would not speculate
Thursday whether the swap for Gilad Schalit had anything to do with the
Quartet’s inability to get the Palestinians to agree to a direct meeting. Ever
since the swap deal was announced, there has been conjecture it would harden the
PA’s position and make it even more hardline since Abbas will now have to
compete with what is widely seen by the Palestinians as Hamas’s success that
came through not bending to Israel.
Blair said Israel’s approval of
preliminary plans to build some 1,800 homes in Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos
neighborhood beyond the Green Line, and another 800 in the adjacent Arab
neighborhood of Beit Safafa, “is a problem.”
“The Quartet has continually
made clear its concerns and disagreement with this. But I go back to one very
simple thing, which is that in the end the best way to resolve this settlement
question is to resolve borders,” Blair said.
Blair has faced increasingly
vocal criticism from Palestinian officials who have accused him of being
pro-Israeli. Some have suggested he should be replaced. Blair denies the
accusation of bias.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator,
criticized the Quartet on Wednesday over what he described as its weak response
to the latest Israeli settlement building announcements.
“We had hoped
from the Quartet to hear, at the very least, one sentence saying Israel is
responsible for destroying the peace process,” Erekat told Voice of Palestine
radio. “This is what we will discuss with them,” he said, referring to next
On Thursday Turkey weighed in with a condemnation of the
Givat Hamatos plan, with Today’s Zaman reporting that the Foreign Ministry
issued a statement that “strongly condemns Israel for shrugging off
international calls and continue building illegal Jewish
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with
Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, and thanked her for Colombia’s
opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral steps at the UN. Colombia
is currently on the 15-member Security Council, and one of the countries
expected not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood.
countries need to either abstain or vote against to make it unnecessary for the
US to use its veto to stop the move, as it said it would do.
“I am glad
that you also think that peace is reached through direct negotiations, without
pre-conditions,” Netanyahu told her, according to a PMO statement.