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World powers guiding the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks pressed for an agreement before year’s end and praised modest successes.

Foreign minister-level representatives of the Quartet, the group comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, met Friday in New York at the end of the opening week of the General Assembly. A concluding statement called for a peace plan this year, something unlikely to happen while Israel is in political turmoil and the Palestinians remain split between relatively moderate Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank and the control of Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. “The Quartet recognized that a meaningful and results-oriented process is under way and called upon the parties to continue to make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008,” the statement said, comporting with President Bush’s expectation that he would achieve an agreement before he left office. The statement “commended the Palestinian Authority for the encouraging results of its efforts to reform the security sector, to confront militias and terrorism, and to enforce the rule of law in areas subject to its security control” as well as “recent measures by the Israeli government to lift restrictions on access and movement and encouraged further steps to ease conditions for Palestinian civilian life and the economy.” The Israeli and Palestinian sides have similarly commended each other for the measures cited by the Quartet, but also insist that they represent just a fraction of what needs to be done. The Quartet statement singled out for criticism settler violence and settlement expansion, as well as continued rocket attacks on Israel launched from the Gaza Strip. The statement “called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth” and “condemned the recent rise in settler violence against Palestinian civilians, urging the enforcement of the rule of law without discrimination or exception.”

It also “condemned acts of terrorism against Israelis, including any rocket attacks emanating from the Palestinian territories, and stressed the need for further Palestinian efforts to fight terrorism and dismantle the infrastructure of terror, as well as foster an atmosphere of tolerance.”

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