Representatives of the Middle East Quartet will visit the region next week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and push forward with a renewed effort to revive the stalled peace process.
Envoys from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia will hold direct talks with officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah and explore “concrete actions” that are “consistent with prior agreements” in order to facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the group said.
The meetings come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly last week that the PA would cease to abide by agreements signed with Israel, claiming Israel had shown that it, too, was no longer committed to them.
On the sidelines of the UN meetings, members of the Quartet issued a lengthy statement in which they stressed the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and a regional framework for working toward a comprehensive two-state solution.
The statement stressed the importance of outreach to regional and international partners, and envoys are instructed to report back to the Quartet Principals — envoys from its four members: the US, Russia, the UN and the EU — as to how potential partners could contribute to a comprehensive resolution.
In its statement last week, the Quartet said that envoys “will engage directly with the parties in order to explore concrete actions both sides can take to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution, including encouraging efforts to agree on significant steps, consistent with prior agreements that benefit Israelis and Palestinians.”
Members noted in the statement “that the intensifying threat of terrorism, sectarian extremism and radicalization in the Middle East reinforces the need to pursue a negotiated two-state solution,” and expressed “deep concern” about “recent violence and escalating tensions surrounding the holy sites in Jerusalem.”
In the days following the UN meetings, Israel and the West Bank were rocked by a wave of violence, including a series of fatal stabbings and rock-throwing attacks by Palestinians.
Palestinians have reacted violently over allegations that Israel has been seeking to curtail Muslim rights at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque, and to alter long-standing rules that ban Jews from praying there.
Israel has repeatedly denied the allegations, asserting that it is not planning to change the status quo at the flashpoint compound holy to both Jews and Muslims.
In its statement, the Quartet, which was designed to pursue multilateral options to achieve a two-state solution, called upon all parties “to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve unchanged the status quo at the holy sites in both word and practice.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.