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Quartet to Hold Separate Talks With Israel, PA

Quartet diplomats say they will meet separately with Israeli and PA officials due to Ramallah's refusal of direct talks.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/17/2011, 9:39 PM

Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Flash 90

Diplomats from the Quartet for Middle East plan to meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials on October 26 in Jerusalem in hopes of reviving direct talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah, the United States said on Monday.

"The Quartet envoys will be meeting with the parties in Jerusalem on October 26 ... with the aim to begin preparations and develop an agenda for proceeding in the negotiations," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

The separate talks fall short of the initial goal set by the Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States -- of direct talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah beginning in Jordan on October 23.

The Quartet began a full-court press to restart negotiations when it became apparent the United States would issue a negative recommendation for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' application for the unilateral recognition of PA State based on pre-1967 lines by the United Nations in September.

For Abbas' application to be approved it would have to have won 9 votes in the 15-member Security Council including a positive recommendation from all five of the decision making body's permanent members. US opposition rendered his bid a dead letter with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton saying it was "going nowhere."

US lawmakers also suspended aid to the PA following the bid and have threatened to do the same to any UN agency that recognizes a PA state without a bilateral agreement between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The Quartet has called on both sides to return to the table without preconditions in hopes of securing a final status agreement by December 2012, but PLO officials have said Israel - which has already agreed to the Quartet proposal - must accept the pre-1967 lines as a basis for talks and freeze all construction in Judea, Samaria, and east Jerusalem.

Israeli officials have said no such freeze will be forthcoming because a previous 10-month construction freeze aimed at satisfying an identical demand by Abbas not only failed to draw the PA to the table, but resulted in more preconditions and - ultimately - the statehood bid at the United Nations.

Jerusalem also maintains all issues and concerns held by the two sides, including the final borders of a potential PA state, should be raised during talks and not before.