JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Middle East Quartet urged Israel and the Palestinians to come to an agreement by September, citing Egyptian unrest as a factor.
The diplomatic Quartet — made up of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States — issued a statement Feb. 5 following a meeting of high-level representatives in Munich.
In its statement, the Quartet "emphasized the need for the parties and others concerned to undertake urgently the efforts to expedite Israeli-Palestinian and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which is imperative to avoiding outcomes detrimental to the region."
The statement also said it "regrets" Israel’s decision not to renew its 10-month moratorium on building in West Bank settlements. It also condemned rocket fire from Gaza on Israel and "stressed the need for calm and security for both peoples."
The Quartet in its statement commended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and for "continued Palestinian state-building efforts," and also welcomed a package of gestures announced the previous day by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy Tony Blair during a meeting in Jerusalem.
The confidence-building measures include allowing new Arab housing projects in eastern Jerusalem; the extension of a PA presence in the West Bank; the building of Palestinian schools and health clinics in the West Bank; the granting of West Bank identity cards to 5,000 Gaza-registered residents of the West Bank.
Also, the approval for construction in Gaza including private homes, desalinization plants and offshore work on the ‘Gaza Marine’ gas field, a PA gas field adjacent to an Israeli one off the coast of Gaza. The measures allow the necessary construction material for the Gaza building.
The Palestinian Authority rejected the measures, with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat saying Feb. 5 that the offer "is just only tricks and procrastination." Erekat said a cessation of Israeli construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem is the only way to build confidence and achieve peace.