Quartet Efforts Failed Over 'Jewish State' Recognition

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.'

The Quartet [United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations] effort to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed around the issue of Israel's demanding the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish and democratic state, senior Jerusalem officials and Western diplomats told Haaretz.

A senior Israeli official said the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, took pro-Palestinian positions in the talks and would not allow a reference to the Jewish and democratic state to be included in the concluding statement of the meeting. Despite describing the two-and-a-half-hour meeting as "excellent," the foreign ministers of the Quartet separated on Sunday without issuing a shared statement at all.

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.