Middle East Quartet meets in Washington Monday

Dina Ezzat in Brussels, Monday 4 Jul 2011

The Quartet on the Middle East, including the US, the EU, the UN and Russia is to meet in the US capital to launch a new round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations

Lady Ashton
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton

A quartette meeting scheduled for 11 July in Washington will try to find an answer to the increasingly pressing question of how to react to an imminent Palestinian request to for UN recognition of a full-fledged, independent Palestinian state next March when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York on the third week of September.

According to statements made by Michael Mann, spokesman for EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, the meeting’s objective is to launch a new process of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis that could lead to a settlement allowing for the establishment of the Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution.

Speaking at EU headquarters in Brussels for a group of Arab journalists, Mann emphasized that they wanted to see a negotiated settlement before September’s request by the Palestinian Authority for recognition.

The Quartet meeting in Washington next Monday, according to Mann, was the initiative of Ashton: "We are pressing and pressing."

“Because of the changes in the Middle East, the time is now for the [Palestinian and Israeli] parties to get to negotiations," said Mann.

Mann declined to give details of the eventual European position on the Palestinian request for UN recognition next September. He said that that EU countries would have to read the details of the request, to be provided to the UN – possibly to the Security Council and not just to the General Assembly – before they can make their independent decisions.

Mann said that for the EU countries, "a negotiated settlement is the future," and he predicted possible "different status from the different countries" to the Palestinian request to the UN General Assembly.

Arab diplomats in Brussels have meanwhile spoken of "considerable" and "serious" Israeli pressure on the EU member states to refrain from offering their recognition of Palestine next September. This pressure, the diplomats add, is metamorphosing into European pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Arab capitals to put the Palestinian diplomatic demarche on hold "and to give chance for a negotiated process."

However, a senior Arab League diplomat said that the "matter is decided and there are no chances that I can see at all of going back."

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