Quartet Likely to Discuss Geneva Plan

The Geneva Accord peace plan is likely to be brought up at the next meeting of the international Quartet, perhaps in early 2004.

The Geneva Accord peace plan is likely to be brought up at the next meeting of the international Quartet, perhaps in early 2004. The Quartet - representatives from the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia - oversees the implementation of the U.S.-sponsored road map to Middle East peace.

According to a source close to a meeting held Friday between UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Geneva architects Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, Annan said that "should a meeting of Quartet ministers be held soon, I am sure that the Geneva document will be discussed."

The Bush administration will establish a channel of communication with the negotiators of the Geneva Accord and will follow its progress, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Friday during a meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian co-authors of the unofficial peace plan in Washington.

Powell told Beilin and Abed Rabbo that he would discuss the initiative with President George Bush in the near future, and the two would work out the American stance on the issue.

Speaking after their meetings with Powell, and Annan in New York, Abed Rabbo hailed the road map as "the mother of all initiatives," saying the Geneva Accord is meant to be complementary. "I could not expect a better welcome from the UN Secretary-General," said Beilin. Abed Rabbo said both Powell and Annan strongly encouraged them to continue promoting their plan, which proposes borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state close to Israel's borders before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Powell said the road map still had "primacy" in moving forward on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the road map blueprint would not be altered as a result of Powell's meeting with Beilin and Abed Rabbo.

Annan echoed Powell's view that the road map remains "the key mechanism," said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard. But the UN chief said the Beilin-Abed Rabbo peace plan "has achieved the important goal of stimulating debate among Palestinians and Israelis."

The State Department defended Powell's meeting with the authors of the Geneva Accord as constructive and said the initiative did not contradict the road map.

Ereli also said the meeting left the administration "more convinced than ever" of the road map's viability. He stressed that in the end, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be decided by governments, not some informal process.

Following the meeting between the Geneva architects and the U.S. Secretary of State, an Israeli government source said "the decisions of the future of the peace process will be made by the elected government [of Israel] and not by anyone else, especially not by people who have no political constituency whatsoever in Israel."

Beilin said after meeting with Annan that the UN chief had encouraged the Geneva authors to continue working toward peace, and termed their efforts a "revolution" amid the grim relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We are introducing this solution that will make the `road map' more credible in our region and in our two public opinions," Abed Rabbo said. "We stick with the `road map.' We consider the road map as the mother of all initiatives."

As for Powell, Abed Rabbo said, "He gave maximum encouragement to our efforts." Powell told reporters: "It was a very good meeting. We welcome other ideas." Beilin said Annan had known about their initiative for over two years and "he encouraged us all the way... He urged us to continue and face the opposition on both sides."

Abed Rabbo said they were encouraged by Annan's assessment "that this represents a spark in the darkness of the continuation of violence in our region." Eckhard said Annan believes "the momentum needed for conflict resolution in the Middle East must come from people working together for change."

Abed Rabbo said the strong international support "is telling us that we have a real duty upon our shoulders to meet these expectations and to create a new change in our public opinions and the policies of those who made the decisions in our respective countries."

En route to New York after their meeting with Powell, Beilin and Abed Rabbo unexpectedly met former U.S. president Bill Clinton who promised to help promote the Geneva initiative.