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Middle East Quartet endorses latest peace talks initiative, Ban Ki-moon says

Middle East Quartet endorses latest peace talks initiative, Ban Ki-moon says

Ban Ki-moon
Voicing deep concern at the explosion of intra-Palestinian violence, the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East today called for Palestinian unity while offering its backing for United States efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, one member of the grouping.

Meeting in Washington, D.C., the Quartet – which comprises high-level representatives of the UN, the US, Russia and the European Union – said it also hoped that recent dialogue between leaders of the two sides could lead to the launch of meaningful negotiations to solve the long-standing conflict.

In a statement read out by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon following the meeting, Quartet members said upcoming talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “could begin to define more clearly the political horizon for the Palestinian people, and help engender a sense of partnership.”

Welcoming the meeting on 23 December between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas, the Quartet called on both sides to refrain from any measures that might pre-determine the content of future negotiations and to meet any obligations under recent agreements.

They stressed their support for a solution based on the Roadmap, the plan which calls for an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. The recent Arab Peace Initiative was welcomed, “particularly its reflection of a shared commitment to a two-State solution.”

But they said the recent surge in violence between rival Palestinian groups was of “deep concern,” and called for Palestinian unity behind a government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of the obligations under the Roadmap.

The statement also condemned the suicide bombing in the Israeli seaside town of Eilat earlier this week and demanded an immediate end to all rocket attacks against Israel.

Quartet members stressed that international assistance to the Palestinian people should continue, and they encouraged donors “to focus on preserving and building the capacity of institutions of Palestinian governance.”

Today’s Quartet meeting – which was Mr. Ban’s first – also featured Ms. Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the EU’s High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Benito Ferrero-Waldner and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.