By Margaret Besheer
The Middle East Quartet is urging the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table within the next month and to make substantial progress on final status issues so they can achieve a two-state solution by next year. The Quartet’s push came as the Palestinians submitted their application for full U.N. membership on Friday.
The Quartet met Friday afternoon after both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the General Assembly annual debate.
The group, which is made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, then issued a statement calling the two parties back to the negotiating table.
European Union policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters that the Quartet expects the parties to come together within the next month and then within three months they want to see significant progress on comprehensive proposals on borders and security.
“And that within six months we start to see this progress turned into reality. So, comprehensive approach set out as swiftly as possible and that these negotiations should be completed within the 12 month timeframe,” Ashton said.
Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair noted that President Abbas had submitted the Palestinian application for full membership to the U.N. Secretary-General, but that would not conflict with the Quartet’s call to the negotiating table.
“President Abbas has lodged his application today with the United Nations. That will go into United Nations machinery. As I’ve said right throughout, the important thing is whatever happens at the United Nations is that it is combined with negotiations. We need the two things, not inconsistent with each other, but parallel and consistent with each other,” Blair said.
The Quartet statement, which diplomats have been negotiating for several weeks, also provides for an international conference to be held in Moscow to review progress and for a donors meeting for the Palestinian Authority.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the statement, saying it represents the firm conviction of the international community that a just and lasting peace can only come through negotiations between the parties.
“Therefore, we urge both parties to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to talks. And the United States pledges our support as the parties themselves take the important next steps for a two-state solution, which is what all of us are hoping to achieve,” Clinton said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped the two parties would respond constructively to the Quartet statement.
Quartet envoy Blair said the group cannot force either party back to the negotiating table, but if the Israelis and Palestinians are serious about peace, they will return to talks so they can lay out exactly where they stand on final status issues.