NEW YORK, Aug. 16 (UPI) — The Middle East Quartet Tuesday called for Palestinians and Israelis to engage in direct peace negotiations next month in Washington.
The quartet — comprised of the United Nations, the Russian Federation, the United States and the European Union — issued a statement in New York in which it “again calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric,” and suggested talks commence Sept. 2.
The statement made no direct mention of Israel’s expansion of building in settlements in the contested areas or Palestinian leaders’ intention to go directly to the United Nations Sept. 20 to request independent recognition of a Palestinian state.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, when asked by a reporter why she had not brought up the quartet statement during her daily briefing, replied it “speaks for itself.”
“But obviously, it is significant for us that the quartet chose to make this statement,” she said. “In the past, the quartet has occasionally chosen to make statements on aspects of the issue. And they felt it was important; we felt it was important at this stage to make a discreet statement on the settlement issue. But that doesn’t change the overall larger goal of the quartet, which is to get the parties back to the table.”
The quartet reaffirmed its commitment to direct talks on the outstanding issues between the two sides to arrive at “a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.”
The quartet members said they will continue to support the two sides and believe the negotiations “can be completed within one year,” their statement said.