Quartet: Settlement freeze and Palestinian state in 'two years'

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy Tony Blair, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton have met in Moscow to discuss progress in Middle East peace talks.


By Jessica Elgot, March 19, 2010
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Hillary Clinton: In Moscow for talks with the Middle East Quartet

Hillary Clinton: In Moscow for talks with the Middle East Quartet

The Middle East Quartet peace mediators have called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity and say their aim is to create a Palestinian state within two years.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who led the meeting with representatives from the US, the European Union and Russia, was the latest to condemn Israel’s plan to build 1,600 homes in Ramat Shlomo, east Jerusalem.

Mr Ban said: "The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in east Jerusalem.

“Recalling that the annexation of east Jerusalem is not recognised by the international community, the Quartet underscores that the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties, and condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem."

Also at the talks in Moscow were EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Quartet’s special envoy, Tony Blair.

The Quartet also expressed hope that condition would be ready for the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years.

Nir Chefetz, spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said that discussions Mr Netanyahu had had with Mrs Clinton before the Quartet’s meeting had led to "mutual confidence-building steps" but refused to comment further on how talks might progress.

Mr Netanyahu will meet Mrs Clinton in Washington next week, and US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is likely to return to Israel this weekend.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has called for a "surveillance mechanism” installed by the Quartet “to make sure that Israel does effectively halt completely all settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.”

Last updated: 12:11pm, March 19 2010