On sidelines of UN, foreign ministers say envoys will engage directly with Israel, PA to find ‘concrete actions’

File: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy arrives for the last plenary session at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. (Joe Klamar/AFP)
File: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy arrives for the last plenary session at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. (Joe Klamar/AFP)


NEW YORK – Representatives of the Middle East Quartet signaled Wednesday evening that they would step up their efforts to facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a day in which discussion of the longstanding dispute took center stage at the United Nations.

After a Wednesday afternoon meeting at UN Headquarters, members of the Quartet issued a lengthy statement in which they stressed the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and a regional framework for working toward a comprehensive two-state solution.

In the statement, the Quartet said that envoys “will engage directly with the parties in order to explore concrete actions both sides can take to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution, including encouraging efforts to agree on significant steps, consistent with prior agreements that benefit Israelis and Palestinians.”

The statement stressed the importance of outreach to regional and international partners, and envoys are instructed to report back to the Quartet Principals – envoys from the four members, the US, Russia, the UN and the EU – as to how potential partners could contribute to a comprehensive resolution.

In a bid to jumpstart such regional outreach, the Quartet will hold its own consultations with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, and included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who later met with Netanyahu.

In the earlier meeting, the Quartet reaffirmed its “steadfast commitment to achieving a two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967 and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict.”

Members noted in the statement “that the intensifying threat of terrorism, sectarian extremism and radicalization in the Middle East reinforces the need to pursue a negotiated two-state solution,” and expressed “deep concern” about “recent violence and escalating tensions surrounding the holy sites in Jerusalem.”

The international group, designed to pursue multilateral options to achieve the two-state solution, called upon all parties “to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve unchanged the status quo at the holy sites in both word and practice.”

In its statement, the leaders also expressed “serious concern” that trends on the ground “are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution,” citing violence against civilians on both sides of the conflict, as well as Israeli construction activity in the settlements and the demolition of Palestinian buildings.

Echoing previous assertions, the statement reiterated that “unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of a negotiated solution” – a reference generally used to criticize Israel’s building in the West Bank as an attempt to prevent the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state.

At the same time, the Quartet acknowledged that Israel had taken steps to ease restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza, and that policy shifts, particularly in Area C, will increase the Palestinian Authority’s ability to address key economic, security and institutional challenges.

While stressing that “the Palestinian commitment to building institutions, improving governance and strongly opposing incitement and violence in all forms remains critically important to laying the groundwork for a viable independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” the Quartet members did not note any steps taken to further those goals.

As reported by The Times of Israel