No rift among Mideast Quartet: Russian envoy

Date: 7/12/2011

By Nicholas Kamm | AFP – Tue, Jul 12, 2011

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday brushed aside suggestions of a rift among members of the diplomatic Quartet, one day after the group met in Washington but failed to make progress towards Mideast peace talks.

"It was a good meeting," said Lavrov, one of four Quartet members to meet in Washington late Monday, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki–moon; EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton; and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There was no statement issued after Monday's working dinner, but Lavrov insisted that that did not signal discord among the foursome tasked with laying the groundwork for fresh peace talks.

"The fact that we didn't produce a statement doesn't mean we disagree and abandoned the effort. Our experts continue to discuss it," Lavrov told reporters in the US capital.

The Russian envoy added: "We have the same desire... to see Palestinians and Israelis returning to the negotiating table and beginning to talk on substance.

"The position to be presented by the Quartet hopefully soon should reflect the specific demands by each of the parties," said Lavrov. "I'm sure we'll have time to consult again."

The meeting to seek a way to revive Israeli–Palestinian peace talks was likely be one of the last meetings of the Quartet before the UN General Assembly in September, when Palestinians intend to push for unilateral recognition of their promised state despite US and Israeli opposition.

Peace talks on reaching a deal ground to a halt in September 2010 when Israel failed to renew a partial freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Since then, the Palestinians have refused to return to talks as long as Israel builds on occupied land they want for a future state.

In May, US President Barack Obama urged the two parties to negotiate borders based on 1967 lines with mutually–agreed swaps –– a position that all of the Quartet members have voiced support for.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the 1967 borders "indefensible," and insists there could can be no peace deal the Palestinians first recognize Israel as the "Jewish state."


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