Middle East Quartet backs continuing Israeli-Palestinian negotiation efforts
The Middle East diplomatic Quartet, which includes the United Nations, today expressed its strong support for ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement by the end of 2008 that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in West Bank and the Gaza Strip and an end to the long-running conflict.
In a statement issued in London, after a meeting there of its principals, the Quartet – which comprises the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – commended both sides “for their continuous and intensive negotiations” and emphasized that there was an urgent need for more progress.
Chaired by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Quartet meeting stressed the importance of visible signs of progress on the ground to both build confidence and create an atmosphere among Israelis and Palestinians that is supportive of negotiations.
While noting there have been positive steps recently, such as the removal of some roadblocks and an outpost by Israel and an improved security performance by the Palestinian Authority, the statement said a lot more was necessary to keep the political process on track and to boost daily living conditions in the West Bank.
Quartet members voiced deep concern at Israel's continued settlement activity and called on the country to freeze all such activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001.
They also called on the Palestinian Authority to fulfil its commitments to fight terrorism and to accelerate measures to rebuild and restructure its security apparatus.
Condemning the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel, and the terrorist attack on a Jerusalem seminary on 6 March, as well as recent Palestinian civilian casualties, the statement called for an end to violence and terror and urged both sides “to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians.”
It also called for continued emergency and humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the provision of essential services to Gaza without obstruction.
In addition, the statement emphasized the need for international donors to follow through on pledges made at the Paris Donors' Conference in December last year to support Palestinian institutional capacity building and economic development.
“Underlining the crucial role of Arab States in support of the peace process, and the importance of the Arab League peace initiative, the Quartet encouraged the Arab States to fulfil both their political and financial roles in support of the Annapolis process,” it said, referring to the peace process launched in the US city of that name late last year.
After the Quartet meeting, Mr. Ban chaired an ad hoc meeting of Quartet members and the group's representative, the former United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair, as well as representatives from Norway and Arab participants in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.
Mr. Ban also held a number of bilateral meetings today in London before heading back to UN Headquarters in New York.
The other participants at the Quartet meeting were Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Dimitrij Rupel, the Foreign Minister of Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.