Diplomatic Quartet calls on both sides to ‘work constructively’ towards peace
The Middle East diplomatic Quartet issued a wide-ranging statement today calling on Israel and the Palestinians to work constructively to create an environment where there can be progress towards Palestinian statehood that is consistent with previous international agreements and resolutions.
After holding a high-level meeting in Berlin, the Quartet principals – including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – also called for more direct talks between the leaders of the two sides to try to find ways to address their respective concerns.
“Palestinians must know that their state will be viable, and Israelis must know a future state of Palestine will be a source of security, not a threat,” according to the statement, which was read out after the meeting by Mr. Ban.
It added that the parties should “work positively and constructively in order to build confidence and to create an environment conducive to progress on the political horizon for Palestinian statehood, consistent with the Roadmap and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, which should also be addressed in these bilateral discussions.”
Devised by the Quartet (comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States), the Roadmap lays out mutual steps to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace.
Today’s Quartet statement voiced deep concern over recent intra-Palestinian factional violence in Gaza and called on the Palestinian Authority to do everything it could to restore law and order, including by securing the release of the abducted BBC journalist Alan Johnston.
Quartet members strongly condemned the firing of rockets into southern Israel by Palestinian militants and the build-up of arms by Hamas and other terrorist groups, and urged the immediate release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Equally, the statement called on Israel to “exercise restraint to ensure that its security operations avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure” and to release the elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature it has detained.
Welcoming recent dialogue between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Quartet called for that to continue and for the Movement and Access Agreement of November last year to be fully implemented.
It also commended the work of the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) and endorsed its extension for another three months until the end of September. TIM is the means devised last year by the EU and the World Bank to provide aid directly to the Palestinian people by bypassing the then Hamas-led Government, which had not committed to recognizing of Israel or renouncing violence.
“The Quartet noted that the resumption of transfers of tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy,” the statement stressed.
“The Quartet encouraged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to consider resumption of such transfers via the Temporary International Mechanism to improve the economic and humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.”
The statement also welcomed the recent reaffirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative – saying it “provides a welcome regional political horizon, complementing the efforts of the Quartet and of the parties themselves to advance towards negotiated, comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”
Welcoming the Arab League’s efforts to promote the initiative in Israel and with the Quartet, the statement “encouraged continued and expanded Arab contacts with Israel, and Israeli action to address concerns raised in the 18 April Arab League decision, including a cessation of settlement expansion and the removal of illegal outposts, as called for in the Roadmap.”
In addition to Mr. Ban, today’s meeting in Berlin was attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU High Representative for Common Security and Foreign Policy Javier Solana and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
They agreed to meet in the Middle East next month with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to review progress and discuss the way forward, and to also hold further discussions with the Arab League on the Arab Peace Initiative.