Diplomats from the international Quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – announced this week that they plan a new effort to push negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA walked away from talks with Israel in late 2010, demanding that Israel freeze all Jewish construction east of the 1949 armistice line.
PA leaders, affiliated with Fatah, have not shown interest in returning to talks with Israel. Instead, PA leaders recently renewed their efforts to reunite with Hamas.
Quartet mediators hope to meet with both Israeli and PA leaders in the upcoming weeks to discuss “core issues”, which include the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a proposed PA state in Judea and Samaria, and the Arab demand that millions of descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel be allowed to “return”.
Despite Israel’s willingness to negotiate with no preconditions, UN coordinator Robert Serry appeared to blame Israel for the impasse in talks in a UN Security Council session Thursday. Israeli security measures disrupt “territorial continuity and inhibit freedom of movement,” he claimed, while praising the PA for reforms.
Israel has removed dozens of checkpoints in recent months in an attempt to ease life for PA Arabs, but continuing terrorism has necessitated the continuing presence of some checkpoints.
Serry expressed hope that Israel and the PA could reach an agreement by September 2011. When asked what the Quartet could do to push talks, he said, “I believe we can help the parties by bringing some suggestions to them which could be a basis for those negotiations.” He declined to give specific ideas.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also expressed hope recently of reaching a peace deal by September, despite Mideast turmoil, the Hamas leadership in Gaza, and the PA’s failure to hold planned 2010 elections. Ashton admitted that solving the conflict in seven months would be “challenging”, but said, “It’s a time frame that everybody has signed up to.”
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