The Quartet working to restore peace in the Middle East – the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russian Federation – today reiterated its willingness to help Israelis and Palestinians with the hard work and difficult decisions needed to make positive use of what it called a “hopeful and promising moment” for both sides.
In addition to signing a ceasefire in February, Israel has pledged to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank in the coming months, while the Palestinian Authority has held elections and promised security sector reforms. The moves are just part of a series of confidence-building and coordinated measures called for in a plan known as the Road Map sponsored by the Quartet.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan summarized the Quartet’s conclusions at a news conference following the group’s meeting in Moscow, held in the margins of the commemorations of the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
“We strongly reiterate our commitment to the two-state solution and to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank as a way of re-energizing the Road Map. We stress the importance of full and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as an important step paving the way towards realizing the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” he said.
The Quartet said a new Palestinian State must be truly viable, with contiguity in the West Bank. No party should take unilateral actions that would prejudge the final status issues. “The Quartet urges both parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map,” Mr. Annan said.
“They both deserve the full support of the international community,” he said.
He urged the international community to help the Palestinian Authority with such tasks as re-building the capabilities of the Palestinian security services.
The envoys with mandates to assist with the implementation of the peace plan are the Quartet’s Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Mr. Annan’s newly appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto, US Envoy David Welsh and the US Security Coordinator for the withdrawal, Gen. William Ward.
On economic questions, Mr. Annan said, “the Quartet recognizes that economic development and progress on security go hand in hand. Security reforms and the re-establishment of the rule of law are necessary to create an enabling environment for economic growth and political progress.”
The ultimate aim, which takes into account recent Arab initiatives, is to ensure that “the whole region is not only at peace and security, but that they move on to have a normal, neighbourly relationship,” he said.