Quartet maintains PA recognize Israel

Olmert pledges to continue holding talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

quartet berlin 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
quartet berlin 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Quartet issued a statement following its talks in Berlin Wednesday night reiterating the need for the Palestinian Authority to accepts its three principles, but also adding that there was a discussion about "possible further steps by the international community in the context of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East." In recent weeks there has been talk of the need for steps other than the road map to try and move the diplomatic process forward. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted in the Russian press as saying there was a need for Israeli and Palestinians to continue direct contacts that deal with a political horizon. The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday pledged to continue holding talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, despite the inconclusive trilateral talks on Monday and the fact that the Mecca understandings between Fatah and Hamas did not accept the Quartet's benchmarks. He said, however, that these talks would focus on the Palestinian humanitarian situation. "I think it's well known and everyone understands that we were very unhappy with the [Hamas-Fatah] reconciliation agreement that did not explicitly recognize the Quartet principles," Olmert said. Olmert added that while Israel would not maintain any kind of formal or practical contact with a PA government that would not accept explicitly the principles of the Quartet, he made it clear that "I will not cut my contacts with Abu-Mazen [Abbas]. I will continue to maintain the bilateral track, I will meet with Abu-Mazen, my staff will meet with his staff on a regular basis, hoping to create the necessary environment that will be helpful for the relations between us and them." Olmert relayed a similar message in telephone conversations he had Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac. According to his office, he briefed the leaders on the trilateral talks, reiterated that Israel would not recognize any PA government that didn't fulfill the Quartet's three criteria, and said that he intended to continue speaking to Abbas "on issues regarding the war against terrorism and the quality of life of the Palestinian population." The Quartet, in its statement, "reaffirmed its statements regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map, and encouraged progress in this direction." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was one of the representatives of the EU at the Quartet meeting, cautioned against building unrealistic expectations for the diplomatic process. "All involved are well aware that this is and remains a difficult process," Steinmeier said after meeting prior to the Quartet parley with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "We have to show a great deal of realism as far as expectations are concerned." In addition to Rice, Steinmeier and Lavrov, the Quartet meeting was also attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the bloc's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Before the meeting Rice said that no hasty decisions should be expected. "We've said, all of us, that we will await the formation of the new (Palestinian) government before making any decisions about what to do, because we don't want to make premature decisions," she said. Rice added that in her talks in Jerusalem on Monday, "I emphasized the importance of continuing to press ahead with Mahmoud Abbas." AP contributed to this report.