Quartet decides to invite Israelis, PA to restart talks

EU's Ashton hails success of Quartet meeting in Brussels, says envoys will "contact parties to invite them to meet in coming days."

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Danilo Krstanovic)
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Danilo Krstanovic)
The Quartet will invite Israeli and Palestinian officials to a meeting in the coming days in an effort to restart direct negotiations, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Sunday.
Speaking after a meeting of Quartet envoys in Brussels, Ashton said, “Following the successful meeting we had with my Quartet colleagues in New York, we discussed what to do next to encourage our Israeli and Palestinian partners to resume substantive negotiations as soon as possible. With that in mind, we will be contacting the parties to invite them to meet in the coming days.”
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One Israeli government official said in response to Ashton’s comment that “Israel has been repeatedly calling for the resumption of direct talks without preconditions. We were ready yesterday, we are ready today and we will be ready tomorrow. And we hope the Palestinians will be ready as well.”
Following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s formal request on September 23 for the UN to accept Palestine as a full member state, the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN – met and put forward a proposal for renewing direct negotiations.
The Quartet proposal called on both parties to commit to a meeting to be held no later than October 23, with the objectives of reaching an agreement by the end of 2012, coming up with concrete ideas on borders and security within 90 days and making “substantial progress” within six months.
While Israel formally accepted the proposal, albeit while expressing “concerns” about some of its elements, the Palestinians have yet to officially endorse the formula, though they have said it contained “encouraging elements.” One Israeli official, before the Quartet met Sunday, said Jerusalem was watching carefully to see how the Quartet would deal with the different responses from the sides, and what path it would chose to move the process along.
Following the meeting, Ashton said, “I believe we have made good progress and will keep in close contact with Quartet partners and colleagues in the region with a view to meet and move things forward.”
PA spokesmen have said they would not enter into the talks until Israel froze all construction beyond the Green Line and accepted the pre- 1967 lines as the baseline for negotiations.
While neither of these points is mentioned specifically in the September 23 Quartet statement, something applauded by Israel, the Palestinians maintain that a clause in that declaration calling upon “the parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective” is in fact a call on Israel to stop settlement construction.
Regarding the pre-1967 lines as the baseline for talks, the Palestinians maintain that the Quartet accepted that position when – in its September 23 proposal – it “reaffirmed its statement of 20th May 2011, including its strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by United States President Barack Obama.”
The vision referred to was Obama’s State Department speech on May 19 when he said negotiations should be based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps.