De Soto: Quartet has become a 'sideshow'

The UN's former Middle East envoy has criticized the United States for its failures in the Middle East, arguing that the sweeping boycott of the Palestinian government had devastating consequences for the region's people, a British newspaper reported Wednesday. In a 53-page report, former UN special coordinator for the Middle East Alvaro de Soto rejected Palestinian violence but said Israel had set unachievable preconditions for talks, the Guardian newspaper said. Western-led peace negotiations have become largely irrelevant, he said. He described the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators, the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations, as having become a "sideshow." The Quartet urged the newly elected Hamas government last year to recognize Israel, make a commitment to non-violence and accept past deals. When Hamas rejected the conditions, world leaders halted direct funding to the Palestinian government. The boycott "effectively transformed the Quartet from a negotiation-promoting foursome guided by a common document (the road map for peace) into a body that was all-but imposing sanctions on a freely elected government of a people under occupation as well as setting unattainable preconditions for dialogue." The report was dated May 5, just before De Soto stepped down.