Quartet Report Cites Violence, Settlements and Gaza as Obstacles to Mideast Peace, UN Envoy Says

'The main objective of this report is not about assigning blame,' UN Mideast envoy says in a briefing of the UN Security Council on the much anticipated Quartet report.

AP

Violence and incitement, settlement expansion and a lack of control of Gaza by the Palestinian Authority were jeopardizing the two-state solution and creating a trend toward a binational state, a senior UN official said on Thursday, citing a report by the Middle East Quartet to be published on Friday.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, who was among the writers of the report, briefed the UN Security Council on the eagerly awaited report by the Quartet: the United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations. He urged the Security Council to back the report and aid the Quartet's efforts.

"The main objective of this report is not about assigning blame," Mladenov told the 15-member council. "It focuses on the major threats to achieving a negotiated peace and offers recommendations on the way forward.

"The Quartet however believes that important progress can be made now, on the ground, by each side independently demonstrating a sincere commitment to advancing the goal of a two-state solution," he said.

"There is an urgent need for both sides to comply with their basic commitments under existing agreements and to take affirmative steps to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict," continued Mladenov. "These negative trends can and must be urgently reversed in order to advance the two-state solution on the ground."

Mladenov said the quartet report specifically calls on Israel to change its policies in the West Bank, particularly Area C - the area under full Israeli control - but also reiterates that an agreement could only be reached through bilateral talks.

These changes, according to Mladenov, need to be supportive of the process through which control would be handed over to the Palestinians as agreed in past deals between the two sides.

He added that the quartet would like so see Israel allow the Palestinians to make progress on projects in Area C concerning housing, water, energy, communications and agriculture infrastructure while addressing Israel's security requirements.

Mladenov concluded by saying: "Let me be unequivocally clear that a permanent status agreement ending the conflict can only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations, the outcome of which cannot be prejudged by unilateral steps that would not be recognized by the international community."

Senior diplomats from the U.S., EU, UN and Russia have worked to draft the report over the past three months. The person in charge of actually writing it was the American special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Frank Lowenstein, in coordination with EU envoy Fernando Gentilini, UN envoy Mladenov and Russian envoy Sergey Vershinin.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made last-ditch diplomatic efforts to soften the expectedly harsh criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s goal was to make the report as balanced as possible in terms of the criticism leveled at each side and the degree of responsibility assigned to each for the impasse in the peace process.

The Quartet foreign ministers decided to draft the report at a meeting in Munich last February, spurred by the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and the French peace initiative. A statement published after that meeting raised the possibility — for the first time — of cooperation between the Quartet and the UN Security Council. That sparked fears in Israel that the Quartet report was intended as a prelude to a more far-reaching move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the Security Council.