Representatives of the Middle East Quartet representing the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union arrived in Jerusalem Wednesday and met with senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry. Diplomats involved in the matter stated that the emissaries' visit, which came after three postponements over the past two months, is intended to promote a package of trust building steps between Israel and the Palestinians as a part of a wider move to save the two-state solution.
"The Envoys of the Middle East Quartet are in Israel and Palestine. They continue their efforts to promote significant steps on the ground, consistent with prior agreements that can restore hope to the Palestinian people and preserve the viability of a negotiated two-State solution," UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, who took part in the meetings, said in a video conference briefing to the UN Security Council.
The Quartet emissaries met with the prime minister's emissary Yitzhak Molcho, Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold, Director General of the Division for International Organizations and the United Nations Ronny Leshno Yaar, and National Security Council Representative in the Prime Minister's Office Oded Yossef. On Thursday, the Quartet emissaries will travel to Ramallah and meet with senior Palestinian officials.
"A long, matter-of-fact and serious discussion took place on ways to stop the violence and reinstate security and stopping the incitement, as well as a discussion on possible future prospects for the peace process," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emanuel Nahshon said. "Both sides recognized that the continuing of the peace process was the true guarantee for achieving security and peace."
A senior Israeli official stated that Israel sees continued dialog with the Quartet as important, since it is a responsible and moderate side. According to him, Israel's representatives reminded their counterparts of the Quartet's decision from September 2011 in which the need for direct Israeli Palestinian negotiations without preconditions was stressed.
The Quartet emissary's visit was supposed to take place in October after a meeting of the Quartet foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in the end of September. At least two of the postponements were at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
One of the Quartet emissaries to arrive in Jerusalem Wednesday was EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Fernando Gentilini. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu announced that Israel was cutting off ties with the EU in matters relating to the peace process, after the EU decided to mark products manufactured in the settlements. A senior Israeli official explained that this cutting of ties did not include meeting with the Quartet, which involved the U.S., the UN and Russia.
The prospects that the Quartet will succeed in creating a substantial package of trust building steps is extremely slim. Only two weeks ago, a similar attempt by Secretary of State John Kerry failed. Netanyahu refused to carry out most of the steps, which Kerry asked for, and actually went back on promises he made to the Americans. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas too was not willing to make any of the gestures towards Israel, Kerry asked of him.
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