Quartet to meet on Israel-Palestinian talks

Effort to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations follows Washington meetings focused on Iran.

quartet dinner washington (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
quartet dinner washington
(photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Nearly six months after the Quartet set out principles to get Israel and the Palestinians back into negotiations, the group is scheduled to meet on Monday at the UN to discuss the stalled diplomatic process.
The meeting comes less than a week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington during which the Palestinian issue was pushed to the side, with Netanyahu not even talking about it publicly and US President Barack Obama speaking about it only very briefly during his public statement with Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, the prime minister’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Yitzhak Molcho, did take part in the meetings in Washington, and US and Israeli officials did talk about the process during a luncheon meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and their expanded staffs. However, that conversation took place during the second half of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, and Iran – not the Palestinians – was the main focus of attention this time in Washington.
The Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN – met on September 23 at the UN, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was seeking Palestinian statehood recognition, and put forward a framework for talks that it hoped would culminate in an agreement by the end of 2012.
While preliminary talks between Molcho and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat took place in January under Jordan’s auspices, the last meeting occurred on January 25, and since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks until Israel freezes settlement construction, releases some Fatah prisoners and agrees to enter negotiations on the basis of a return to the pre-1967 lines.
Israel, meanwhile, has said it will not renew the talks until it becomes clear whether – as part of a Fatah- Hamas reconciliation agreement – Hamas will join the PA government. Netanyahu has made clear that Israel would not negotiate with the Palestinians if Hamas was part of the government.
An Israeli package of economic gestures that Quartet envoy Tony Blair was working on with Netanyahu at the end of January to keep the Palestinians in the talks was put on hold as a result of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks.
According to a UN press release, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet at the UN ahead of a special Security Council session on the Arab Spring. The other Quartet principals – EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Blair – will participate via video link.
Reuters reported UN diplomats as saying that Russia was pushing for the Quartet meeting. Russia and China have found themselves isolated lately on the Security Council because of their support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.