Quartet urges return to direct talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Mideast Quartet again has urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace talks without preconditions.

A U.S. State Department statement issued Wednesday said envoys of the entities comprising the Quartet — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — as well as its chief envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, met that day with officials from both sides in Jerusalem.

"They reiterated the September 23 Quartet statement and stressed the important objective of a direct exchange between the parties, without preconditions or delay, beginning with a preparatory meeting and leading to the presentation of proposals on territory and security," the statement said. "The envoys also reiterated the call for the parties to create a conducive environment for restarting talks and urged the parties to refrain from provocative actions."

The reference to "direct exchange" alludes to Israel’s demand, backed by the Quartet, that the Palestinians back down from their demand that Israel freezes settlement before talks resume.

"Provocative actions" refers both to continued Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood recognition in the absence of talks.

The Quartet guides Middle East peace talks.

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