The Quartet includes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ex-British PM Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) sits with Middle East Quartet Representative Tony Blair (R) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as she hosts a dinner of the Middle East Quartet at the State Department in Washington. © Nicholas Kamm - AFP
The Quartet includes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ex-British PM Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
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Christophe Schmidt, AFP
Last updated: July 12, 2011

Quartet finds Mideast peace process slow going

The Middle East diplomatic Quartet found out in Washington how massively bogged down the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is, despite efforts at bringing the parties closer.

Representatives of the Quartet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, declined to issue a statement about their evening dinner.

It was likely one of their last meetings before the UN General Assembly in September, when Palestinians intend to push for unilateral recognition of their state despite US and Israeli opposition.

"We're realistic about the gaps, we know that more needs to be done, but ultimately, it's up to the parties to make the tough decisions... and we stand ready to help and facilitate," said a senior Barack Obama administration official, who wished to remain anonymous.

According to the same source, Quartet members all have voiced support for the position taken by Obama, who in May urged the two parties to base the borders of their countries on the 1967 borders with mutually-agreed swaps.

The source added that there is an urgent need to "find a way to resume direct negotiations without delay or preconditions and to begin with a preparatory phase of talks to maximize chances of success."

Peace talks on reaching a deal ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the 1967 borders "indefensible," insisting there could not be a peace agreement unless the Palestinians first recognize Israel as the "Jewish state."

Israel also wants sovereignty over east Jerusalem, annexed after its occupation, as well as large swaths of settlements in the West Bank and a military presence in the Palestinian section of the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinians reject these conditions, and demand a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi urged the Quartet to "undertake its responsibilities seriously."

According to the US official, the Quartet is "committed as a group, collectively and individually, to continue this effort and to continue their intense engagement with the parties remain in close coordination as they tackle this difficult challenge."

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