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Middle East Quartet voices ‘serious concern’ at continuing cycle of violence

Middle East Quartet voices ‘serious concern’ at continuing cycle of violence

Envoys for the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process – comprising the United States, Russian Federation, European Union, and United Nations – today voiced their “very serious concern” at the continuing cycle of violence in the region and repeated their call for an immediate ceasefire.

A statement issued by the Quartet in London said the Envoys “expressed very serious concern at the continuing acts of violence and terror planned and directed against Israelis, and at Israeli military operations over the past several days in the West Bank and Gaza which led to Palestinian civilian fatalities.”

The group reaffirmed their call in December for an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire. “All Palestinian individuals and groups must end all acts of terror against Israelis, in any location,” they said.

In New York, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the Envoys' statement. "It is a matter of vital interest to peace and security in the Middle East that the Quartet maintain its efforts with the parties to achieve the two-state solution that is the cornerstone of international consensus on the comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict," Hua Jiang said.

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, represented the UN at yesterday's talks, which reviewed the current situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects for giving new impetus to peace efforts. The meeting also focused on the next steps towards the adoption and implementation of the Quartet’s so-called road map, which the group reaffirmed should be formally adopted and presented to the parties as soon as possible.

Today’s statement reiterated the Quartet’s call for the Palestinians to build credible institutions to prepare for statehood and welcomed the Palestinians’ decision to appoint a Prime Minister as a significant step. The Envoys also underscored the importance of appointing a credible and fully empowered Prime Minister.

“They urged the immediate convening of the relevant legislative and executive Palestinian bodies to exercise their authority in this regard, and called on the Government of Israel to facilitate these meetings,” the statement said. “The Quartet also encouraged the Palestinians to continue the process of preparing a constitution that would form the basis for a strong parliamentary democracy.”

Noting Israel’s important role in facilitating the Palestinian reform process, the Quartet recognized the positive effect of the resumption of monthly revenue transfers and return of outstanding arrears.

“Likewise, the Quartet Envoys emphasized Israel’s obligation, consistent with legitimate security concerns, to do more to ease the dire humanitarian and socio-economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza, including facilitating freedom of movement and access, alleviating the daily burdens of life under occupation, and respecting the dignity of Palestinian civilians,” the statement said. “They welcomed the opportunity for direct discussions between the donor community and Israelis and Palestinians to address this critical issue.”

In related news, the Task Force on Palestinian Reform also wrapped up its latest meeting today in London, welcoming the “clear and considerable” progress made in several areas of Palestinian civil reform.

The Task Force is composed of the Quartet, Norway, Japan, Canada, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.