Mohammed Mar’i
Arab News
October 2, 2008 - 8:00pm§ion=0&article=115084&d=3&m=10&y=2008

Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East Quartet will meet in November to review progress in US-backed peace talks launched nearly a year ago, according to a senior Israeli official. The official told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the Israeli and Palestine Authority participants would brief the Quartet over progress made in the ongoing peace talks.

The meeting would be held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Nov. 27, the one-year anniversary of the Annapolis conference that relaunched the negotiations. The Quartet representatives, including its Middle East envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will participate as well as officials from Jordan and Egypt.

The gathering is said to be the result of a compromise worked out between the US, Israel and the Palestinians. In recent months US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been urging both sides to draft a document detailing the points of agreement.

She has suggested they compile an “inventory” detailing progress on each of the core issues, such as Jerusalem, borders, refugees’ right of return, security, settlements and water rights. Israel opposed Rice’s suggestion and argued that it would set the talks back. “It would make each side harden its stance to appear as though it has made no concessions,” the source said.

Detailed briefing

“Finally, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni managed to persuade her Palestinian counterpart, the head of the PA negotiating team, Ahmed Qorei, to reject the inventory idea.” Instead, the parties agreed to give a detailed briefing to the Quartet. The Israeli and PA negotiators believe that would be less binding and would allow issues to be presented more freely.

The Quartet representatives met with their Arab League counterparts in New York last week and approved the proposed Israeli and Palestinian briefing. Also, the Quartet members decided to hold a peace summit in Moscow next spring. The political turmoil in Israel following the resignation of Ehud Olmert as prime minister is also hampering attempts to determine the level of representation at the summit. If Livni becomes prime minister then the heads of state of other participating countries would be required to attend.

Another issue that must be reconciled before the summit is the difference of opinion between Livni and Olmert, who have each been holding independent talks with Palestinians.


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