Washington, April 11 —Top members of the Middle East Quartet are meeting today on the sidelines of the G-8 foreign ministers' talks in Washington to discuss re-launching Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
And Israel is welcoming the Quartet statement calling for the continuation of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions.
“Israel welcomes the Quartet statement that calls for the continuation of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians without preconditions,” the written statement communicated by the Prime Minister’s media adviser reads. “At his meeting next week with a Palestinian delegation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will propose raising the level of the talks and to hold them directly with Abu Mazen. This message will also be delivered by the Prime Minister’s personal envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, who is expected to meet with Abu Mazen and give him a letter about Israel’s position regarding a future agreement with the Palestinians.”
The Quartet participants, however, aren’t holding much hope for success because they face the challenge of the Palestinians insisting on preconditions by Israel and their history in recent years of walking out mid-negotiations. The Israelis, meanwhile, say they're ready to talk without prerequisites.
The Middle East Quartet comprises the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia. The members expected to engage in talks today are U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and envoy Tony Blair. Just last week, Blair and U.S. envoy David Hale traveled to the Middle East to meet with both sides.
In September, the Quartet set framework for negotiations between the two sides. The last round of talks took place in January in Jordan under the sponsorship of King Abdullah II and the Middle East Quartet. But the talks ended when the Palestinian delegation walked out because Israel wouldn’t agree to several Palestinian demands: that Israel stop all settlement construction and return to the 1967 armistice lines as the basis for future talks and release Fatah prisoners.
The G8 countries include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Russia and, in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, are expected to focus on the U.N. ceasefire plan for Syria and North Korea’s planned firing of a missile this week. The United States currently holds the G8 presidency and will host the G8 Summit at Camp David May 18-19.