The Mideast Quartet principals met in Munich for the first time in a year on Sunday and came out against unilateral Palestinian efforts to get the international community to impose a solution on Israel.
Without specifically mentioning the recent Palestinian efforts, including the failed effort at the end of December to pass a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines within three years, a statement issued at the end of the meeting said that sustainable peace requires negotiations.
The meeting, which included US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, took place against the backdrop of sharp tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the White House over the premier’s scheduled speech to Congress on March 3.
The Quartet meeting took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, and was the first Quartet meeting at the level of foreign ministers since the Munich conference last year. Quartet envoys, however, have met since then, most recently in Brussels in late January.
Following the meeting, the Quartet released a statement saying that “a sustainable peace requires the Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and those of Israelis for security to be fulfilled through negotiations based on the two-state solution.”
Israeli diplomatic officials expressed satisfaction with the statement.
While the resolution the Palestinians brought to the UN Security Council in December would have contradicted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which never called for a full return to the pre-1967 lines, the Quartet statement reiterated that negotiations toward a “lasting and comprehensive peace” be based on “UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Madrid Principles, including land for peace, and the agreements previously reached between the parties.”
The Quartet mentioned the “vital role” of Arab partners in reaching a comprehensive peace, and said it will “remain actively engaged in preparing for a resumption of the peace process in the coming period, including regular and direct outreach to Arab states.”
Pending the resumption of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, broken off nearly a year ago and not expected to resume until at least after a new government is set up in Israel in the spring, the Quartet called on “both parties to refrain from actions that undermine trust or prejudge final-status issues.”
This is widely believed to refer both to Israeli settlement actions and Palestinian steps in the international community.
The quartet also expressed deep concern over the situation in Gaza, and urged the donor countries to disburse the funds that they promised last October.
Prior to the Quartet meeting, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah asserted that the “major issue” behind all the turbulence in the Middle East is “that we are lagging behind on the peace process. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or the conflict, is the main igniter to all the turbulence in the Middle East.”
Attiyah, joined on a panel dealing with the Middle East by Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maliki, further said that one of the reasons for the “Arab Spring” revolutions was the masses pushing their leaders to find a solution to the conflict, and “one of the revolutions’ elements” was the Arab leaders’ failure to deliver.
The Qatari foreign minister likened Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state to Islamic State. “The world is fighting a group calling itself Islamic State, and you want to come and say [you are] a Jewish state,” he said to Steinitz.
The tones between the two men were raised when Steinitz asked why Qatar “is supporting a Jihadist organization like Hamas or Islamic State, instead of putting all its efforts into eliminating such jihadi organizations, whether they are working in Iraq, Gaza, Africa or elsewhere.
“Even if they attack the Jewish state, they’re jihadist terrorists just like those who attack Christians or moderate Muslims,” he said.
Attiyah snapped back that not only does Qatar not support Hamas, an assertion belied by facts, but also that Hamas is not a terrorist group.
“Hamas has two aspects,” he said. “It has a social, political aspect, and another aspect: resistance. If you lift the occupation, Hamas does not have to fight you. It is a movement of liberation.” Furthermore, he asserted, not only does Qatar not support Islamic State, but is in the coalition against it.
Maliki, who is in a unity government with Hamas – an organization widely recognized as a terrorist group – said that the PA has offered its “contribution and participation” to fight Islamic State.
“We want to be part of that collective effort, and we are ready to engage,” he said. He said that the PA is ready to offer its knowledge to fight radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram, al-Nusra and al-Qaida.
“This is a reflection of how much we are ready, and in which camp we are in,” he said.
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