Officials: Mideast Quartet Talks Failed Due to Disagreement Over Israel as Jewish State

Western diplomats and senior officials in Jerusalem say foreign ministers of Mideast Quartet did not issue final statement on meeting over Israel's demand that Palestinians call it a 'Jewish state.'

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The foreign ministers of the Middle East Quartet failed to reach an agreement on Monday surrounding the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and therefore did not issue a public statement on their meeting meant to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Western diplomats and senior officials in Jerusalem said Tuesday.

"The goal was to give each side something that was important to them," a Western diplomat said. "The Palestinians were supposed to get 1967 borders with land swaps and the Israelis wanted to receive in return the recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland, but there was no agreement on this matter."

Members of the Middle East Quartet in Washington, July 11, 2011.Credit: Reuters

A senior Israeli official said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took mostly pro-Palestinians positions in the Quartet talks and would not allow the inclusion of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the concluding statement of the meeting.

Despite describing the two-and-a-half-hour long meeting as "excellent," the foreign ministers of the Quartet separated on Sunday without issuing a shared statement.

A senior State Department official who attended the shared dinner at the end of the meeting told Haaretz it was unclear what the Palestinians were hoping to achieve in September. Before the meeting, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that it was yet unclear just what the UN decision is going to entail, but the important issue right now was creating a reality with both parties.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was more specific, stressing the way to two peacefully and securely coexisting states went through direct negotiations, and the sooner the parties would return to the table, the sooner they were likely to reach results.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday the purpose of the meeting was work, comparing positions and providing situation estimates. She stressed the meeting did not supplement the last shared statement of the Quartet, which endorsed the May 19 speech by President Obama on the Middle East. Nuland said the American position on the September vote was that it will be unhelpful for the negotiations and would actually make them more difficult, and that the United States planned to redouble its efforts before the vote.

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