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UN - Middle East Quartet calls on Israel, Palestinians to launch direct negotiations

The United Nations and its diplomatic partners in the Middle East Quartet called on the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume direct talks starting next month with the aim of reaching a wide-ranging agreement within the next 12 months to end the region’s long-running conflict.

In a statement issued this morning, the Quartet members – the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – called on the two sides to launch direct negotiations on 2 September in Washington “to resolve all final status issues and fulfil the aspirations of both parties.”

Direct bilateral talks have not been held since late 2008, but indirect, or proximity, talks resumed in May this year, with the former United States senator George Mitchell shuttling between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Seven rounds of indirect talks have been held and earlier this week Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco told a Security Council meeting that the push to resume direct talks had reached a turning point.

Late last month, Arab League foreign ministers agreed to give their backing in principle to Mr. Abbas re-starting direct negotiations when he deems it appropriate.

Today’s statement noted that “the Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement.

“The Quartet again calls on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.”

The statement stressed that direct negotiations will only be successful if there is “sustained regional and international support” for both the talks and the “parallel process of Palestinian State-building and the pursuit of a just, lasting and comprehensive regional peace as envisaged in the Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Quartet members have consistently called on the two sides to adhere to their commitments under the Roadmap, the internationally approved plan for a two-State solution in which Israel and the Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security.

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