27th May 2017

EU, US put hope in relaunch of Middle East talks

  • Jerusalem: the status of the sacred city and the future of Israeli settlements in and around it will be crucial in the talks (Photo: wikipedia)

The Quartet is gearing up to formally invite Israeli and Palestinian leaders for face-to-face peace talks for the first time in one and a half years.

The meeting is to be hosted by US President Barack Obama in Washington on 2 September and to aim for an outcome within one year, EUobserver has learned.

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Israeli and Palestinian diplomats have agreed in principle to accept the invitation. But the final Quartet communique - expected later on Friday (20 August) - could still cause upset by, for example, laying down pro-Palestinian pre-conditions, such as a moratorium on Israeli settlement building.

"There are divergences among the Quartet powers on this issue [the EU, Russia, the UN and the US]," one contact close to the process said.

The official aim of the Quartet is to help create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, with a negotiated solution on the status of Jerusalem.

One major problem is the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, with an Israeli peace activist and Jerusalem city councillor, Meir Margalit, telling this website in a pervious interview that it would cause "civil war" inside Israel if it tried to pull the settlers out.

Another problem is the Palestinian Authority's split with Hamas, a militant Palestinian resistance group listed as terrorists by the EU and US, which controls the Gaza strip.

A Hamas spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, told EUobserver by phone from Gaza that German, Greek, Italian, Russian and Spanish MPs and officials have in recent meetings explored ways to involve the group in the peace process.

Hamas refuses to recognise the right of Israel to exist or to renounce violent resistance, however.

"Without co-ordination between Hamas and Fatah [the Palestinian Authority] we will achieve nothing," he said. "To start peace negotiations when you do not have a real resistance is nothing. And a resistance without a political umbrella is nothing. We have to build a new strategy to mix political action and resistance."

Israel says Hamas cannot be included in high-level talks on its current terms.

"How can you ask to be part of the peace process when you are not willing to give up violence, to give up terrorism? When you're not even willing to say that you give up violence," an Israeli diplomat said.

The story originally said the talks would take place on 2 October. The correct date is 2 September.

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