UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister pose for a photo in March 2012. Envoys were to meet to prepare for a high-level meeting of the Diplomatic Quartet aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that stalled in 2010 just after they started. © Timothy A. Clary - AFP/File
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister
AFP
Last updated: April 10, 2012

Envoys try to lay groundwork for restarting Mideast talks

Envoys were to meet here Tuesday to prepare for a high-level meeting of the Diplomatic Quartet aimed at reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that stalled in 2010 just after they started.

The envoys were in Washington to lay the groundwork for a meeting Wednesday of the top diplomats of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"We do anticipate that there will be a Quartet statement at the conclusion of that meeting tomorrow about midday. The envoys are working on it today, and it will be concluded by principals," Nuland told reporters.

The high-level meeting will involve US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Nuland said.

Quartet representative Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, will also attend, she said.

"We'll continue to be trying to support the parties and move them closer to dialogue and creating the context for dialogue between them," Nuland said.

The top Quartet diplomats, she said, will also hope to advance plans for providing "robust international support" for the Palestinian Authority and for helping it build the institutions needed for a future state.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since September 2010, and the decades-old conflict has become overshadowed by the uprising in neighboring Syria.

Negotiators from both sides held five rounds of exploratory talks in January in the Jordanian capital Amman, but the talks ended inconclusively.

The Palestinians accused Israel of failing to present concrete proposals on borders and security as requested by the Quartet.

"We obviously think that the talks that were conducted in Jordan were very useful in January, that they began a process that we would be prepared to see built on," Nuland said when asked whether talks in Amman could resume.

"But there are other ways for the parties to re-engage with each other, and we would be supportive of any means of re-engagement that would be helpful," she said.

Nuland said, as is usual, the Palestinians and Israelis would not attend the Quartet meeting, but that the Quartet envoys would brief the two sides later.

The Quartet, whose top diplomats last talks in March, launched a new bid to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table on September 23 last year, when the Palestinians made their application for full membership of the UN.

The Palestinians say there can be no talks while Israel continues its expansion of settlement building in the occupied territories.

The diplomatic quagmire has been deepened by the Palestinian attempts to seek greater international recognition, in frustration at the deadlock in the talks. The United States has vowed to veto any Security Council resolution in favor of the Palestinians.

The US administration and Israel say that only direct talks can create a deal to set up a Palestinian state.

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