Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
October 26, 2011 - 12:00am

Quartet officials will take yet another stab over the next two days at kick-starting the stalemated diplomatic process, meeting separately in Jerusalem with Israeli and Palestinian representatives in an effort to convince the latter to agree to a direct meeting.

The Quartet officials – expected to include Quartet envoy Tony Blair, US envoy David Hale, Helga Schmid from the EU, the UN’s Robert Serry, and a Russian representative – are scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

A meeting originally planned for Wednesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho may now not take place until Thursday because Molcho is expected to be in Egypt on Wednesday facilitating the exchange of Ilan Grapel for 25 Egyptian prisoners.

The latest effort at restarting negotiations comes three days after the sides missed a deadline for the first direct meeting the Quartet called for in its framework for returning to talks, which it released at the UN on September 23. That framework calls for an agreement between the two sides by the end of 2012.

On the eve of the Quartet meetings, an Israeli government source said that Israel embraced the Quartet call “for a resumption of talks without preconditions, and hope that the Quartet officials will expedite that goal.”

Asked about various reports over the last few days that Netanyahu might be willing to curtail settlement construction to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the official would say only that as the diplomatic process progresses, “Israel will be willing to show good faith.”

At the same time, the official said that the Palestinian Authority cannot abandon negotiations, take unilateral moves at the UN, and then “ask us to behave as if they are a peace partner.”

The PA has said repeatedly it will only reenter direct talks if Israel freezes all settlement construction beyond the Green Line, and agrees that the baseline of the future talks will be a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines.

Even before the Quartet team arrived, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, was quoted by AFP as chiding Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for saying a day earlier that it would be a “blessing” if PA President Mahmoud Abbas carried out his oft-repeated threat and resigned.

Lieberman’s remarks, she said, “are regrettably not helpful to create the environment of trust conducive to negotiations.” The EU valued Abbas’s “central role” and commitment “to a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Kocijancic said.

President Shimon Peres also alluded to Lieberman’s comments, saying during a meeting with a group including US actor Jason Alexander that the PA leadership headed by Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, was “professional, serious and wants peace.” Israel “must continue to negotiate with [Abbas], who represents moderate forces,” Peres said.


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