The Quartet…calls for Palestinians and Israelis to return to negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been saying that he is ready to return to negotiations — without preconditions — at any time. He suggested meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the UN, right after his speech yesterday.

The Palestinians say that there has to be a complete stop to Israeli settlement activities on the ground, first. They now also say they want the negotiations conducted within an international framework of legitimacy. And, they have made it clear that they want to start where Netanyahu’s predecessor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left off with them in September 2008, shortly before he was required to resign during a corruption investigation.

The Quartet spent five intensive days in New York trying to draft a statement they could all agree upon and that would also meet Palestinian requirements, in an effort to avert the Palestinian “UN bid”. After yesterday’s speeches by Abbas and by Netanyahu, the Quartet issued the following statement, which proposes a resumption of negotiations within the month, and agreement by the end of 2012:

“The Quartet takes note of the application submitted by President Abbas on 23rd September 2011 which is now before the Security Council.

The Quartet reaffirmed its statement of 20th May 2011, including its strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by United States President Barack Obama. [[note – This refers, therefore, only to Obama’s speech at the U.S. State Department on 19 May, in which he called for negotiations to resume first on borders, which Obama said should be the 1967 borders, and security. It deliberately omits reference to Obama’s speech to AIPAC on 21 May, in which he caves in to Israeli pressure and for the first time endorses the controversial language in the 2004 letter of George Bush to Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which recognized existing demographic realities on the ground – meaning the Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank...]]

The Quartet recalled its previous statements, and affirmed its determination to actively and vigorously seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515, 1850, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, and the agreements previously reached between the parties.

The Quartet reiterated its commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and reaffirms the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions. But it accepts that meeting, in itself, will not reestablish the trust necessary for such a negotiation to succeed. It therefore proposes the following steps:

1. Within a month there will be a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree an agenda and method of proceeding in the negotiation.

2. At that meeting there will be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation is to reach an agreement within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012. The Quartet expects the parties to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and to have made substantial progress within six months. To that end, the Quartet will convene an international conference in Moscow, in consultation with the parties, at the appropriate time.

3. There will be a Donors Conference at which the international community will give full and sustained support to the Palestinian Authority state-building actions developed by Prime Minister Fayyad under the leadership of President Abbas.

4. The Quartet recognizes the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in preparing institutions for statehood as evidenced in reports to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, and stresses the need to preserve and build on them. In this regard, the members of the Quartet will consult to identify additional steps they can actively support towards Palestinian statehood individually and together, to secure in accordance with existing procedures significantly greater independence and sovereignty for the Palestinian Authority over its affairs.

5. The Quartet calls upon the parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective. The Quartet reiterated the obligations of both parties under the Roadmap.

6. The Quartet committed to remain actively involved and to encourage and review progress. The Quartet agreed to meet regularly and to task the envoys and the Quartet Representative to intensify their cooperation, including by meeting prior to the parties’ preparatory meeting, and to formulate recommendations for Quartet action”.

This statement is posted here.

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