Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday harshly criticized a newly released report by the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, saying it would not further the cause of peace, and called on the United Nations Security Council to reject the document.
The Quartet — the UN, United States, European Union and Russia — on Friday published its long-awaited report on the peace process, which saw for the first time a major international body cite Palestinian incitement to violence against Israel as a major obstacle to ending the conflict.
Incitement was one of the three “negative” trends highlighted in the report penned by UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov. The envoy said all three trends (settlements and the Palestinian Authority’s lack of control over the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip being the other two) “severely undermine hopes for peace.”
But Abbas, visiting the grave of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, reiterated the PA’s rejection of the Quartet report.
“We have published our position on the Quartet commission, and we said this report is not fit for the task of peace,” Abbas said, according to the official PA news site Wafa.
“We are very sorry that this is the position, and we hope the United Nation Security Council will not adopt this report,” Abbas said.
The PA president also welcomed an usually harsh statement by the US State Department on Tuesday, in which it accused Israel of systematically seizing Palestinian land after the Jewish state approved the construction of 800 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“We would like it to be said that settlement building is illegitimate and illegal and must cease. This is what we demand, and if any country does so then that is welcome,” Abbas said.
His biting comments followed a report Tuesday that Ramallah had decided to stop working with the Quartet as an organization, but would keep working individually with the group’s separate members.
“It’s not only about the report, it’s more than that — but the report confirms how useless [the Quartet] is,” a Palestinian official said.
Senior PLO official and top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quick to express disappointment Friday that the report criticized both sides rather than only Israel.
“It does not meet our expectations as a nation living under a foreign colonial military occupation,” he said, and criticized what he called the report’s attempt “to equalize the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier.”
Israel also slammed the Quartet report. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it only “perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace. When Israel froze settlements (in 2009-10), it did not get peace.”
There was no formal response from the Quartet, but a source involved with the report said Wednesday there were positives to be drawn from the responses.
“If both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu find the report disturbing, then the report must contain some truths that both are uncomfortable with,” he said.
On Tuesday, despite the reported boycott of the Quartet, Abbas sent identical letters to the four representatives of the Quartet urging them to support the French initiative, a regional approach to conducting peace negotiations.
Israel has rejected the French initiative, saying only direct bilateral negotiations can be effective.
AFP contributed to this report.