BY TOVAH LAZAROFF AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH, JPOST
Palestinians said they were disappointed that the Quartet refused to heed their call for unilateral statehood and instead continued to throw its support behind a negotiated solution, when it met on Saturday in Germany.
“Unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community,” the group said in a statement it issued after the meeting.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians had hoped the Quartet would issue “historic decisions in light of the danger facing the region because of Israeli occupation and policies.” The West should stop “dealing with Israel as a state above the law,” Erekat said.
The Palestinians had expected the Quartet to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital, and oblige Israel to stop all settlement activities, according to Erekat.
Instead, the West’s attitude toward Israel is “pushing the region toward violence, anarchy, extremism and bloodshed,” Erekat said.
The real danger today is not Iran, as the West claims, but “Israeli occupation and policies,” he added.
The Quartet, however, called on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a negotiated solution by September 2011. It said it planed with the help of its envoys to work with both parties before its next gathering in March.
The quartet – the UN, the US, the EU and Russia – met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference amid ongoing pro-democracy protests in Egypt.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters after the meeting that the Quartet should not be distracted from its task by the events in Egypt.
“I believe that regional events shouldn’t distract us from that objective for the future. We want to see peace and stability in the region, we believe the Middle East peace process is an essential part of that,” said Ashton.
“In view of developments in the Middle East, the Quartet expressed its belief that further delay in the resumption of negotiations is detrimental to the prospects for regional peace and security,” the group said in a statement.
It commended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership and the continued Palestinian state-building efforts. It also welcomed Netanyahu’s incentives package to the Palestinians.
The group chastised Israel for not renewing its 10- month moratorium on new settlement construction and condemned Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
In a statement to the media, the Quartet said that “it took note of dramatic developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the region in recent days.
The Quartet members considered the implications of these events for Arab-Israeli peace and agreed to discuss this further in upcoming meetings as a matter of high priority.”
After the meeting Ashton defended the EU – and herself – over criticism that the 27- nation bloc had been slow and timid in its response to events in Egypt.
“I really don’t accept that we have been slow. I think that we have to be very measured, and very clear,” she said.
Outside of Ashton, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and Quartet Representative Tony Blair were present at the meeting.