Recent developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the region underscore the need for Israel and the Palestinians to immediately resume peace talks, the United Nations and its partners said on Saturday, adding that any further delay will be detrimental to regional peace and security.
“The Quartet emphasized the need for the parties and others concerned to undertake urgently the efforts to expedite Israeli-Palestinian and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which is imperative to avoiding outcomes detrimental to the region,” the group said in a statement issued following their high-level meeting in Munich, Germany.
The negotiations stalled after Israel refused in late September to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, prompting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The United States, which championed the talks that had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus, has now reverted to indirect shuttle diplomacy between the two sides.
“The Quartet regrets the discontinuation of Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement activity and strongly reaffirms that unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community,” stated the group, which is made up of the UN, European Union, Russia and the US.
Strongly urging the parties to overcome current obstacles in the peace process, the Quartet reaffirmed that negotiations should lead to an outcome that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and resolves all permanent status issues, in order to end the conflict and achieve a two-State solution.
The group reiterated its support for concluding these negotiations by September 2011, and agreed to meet again in mid-March on the way ahead.
Participating in today's meeting were Mr. Ban, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, Catherine Ashton. They were joined by Quartet Representative Tony Blair.
While in Munich, Mr. Ban also met separately with Ms. Ashton, and the two discussed a number of issues, including the Middle East peace process and the situations in Iran, Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire. The Middle East peace process was also among the issues discussed in the Secretary-General's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.