Mideast Quartet Calls for Peace Deal by End of Next Year

NEW YORK—Less than two hours after Israel and the Palestinians addressed the United Nations General Assembly, the Mideast Quartet proposed the parties agree to a timetable for peace talks, with a final deal is to be reached by the end of 2012 at the latest. According to a Quartet statement released by the UN, the Quartet—consisting of the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union—calls on the parties to hold a “preparatory meeting” to agree on an approach to negotiations within one month.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day in his General Assembly speech called upon the United Nations Security Council to grant the Palestinians full UN membership and statehood recognition. Considering the Quartet includes four of the five states with veto powers in the UN Security Council, and the UN itself, it seems doubtful the Palestinians will be able to significantly advance their statehood proposal without following the Quartet plan.

The Quartet statement did say that they “note of the application submitted by President Abbas… which is now before the Security Council.”

The statement said that under their peace proposal the Quartet “expects the parties to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and to have made substantial progress within six months.”

This fulfills US President Barack Obama’s plan for talks to focus on these two matters first, but avoided specific reference to the 1967 lines that would grant the Palestinians the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, with agreed upon swaps. However, the Quartet reaffirmed their support for the Obama plan.

An international peace conference in Moscow is also set to be held “at the appropriate time,” in consultation with the Israelis and the Palestinians. Russia has been calling for such a conference for years.

The peace process looks to have more international oversight than in years previous. “The Quartet committed to remain actively involved and to encourage and review progress,” said the statement. “The Quartet agreed to meet regularly and to task the envoys and the Quartet Representative to intensify their cooperation, including by meeting prior to the parties’ preparatory meeting, and to formulate recommendations for Quartet action.”

The proposal was made by the Quartet as a way to call for renewed peace talks, while accepting that “meeting, in itself, will not re-establish the trust necessary for such a negotiation to succeed.”

Said the statement, “The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli -Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 23, 2011)