22 June – Members of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East – the United Nations, United States, Russian Federation and European Union – today hailed positive developments in the peace process and urged further efforts by both Israel and the Palestinian authorities to consolidate the gains achieved so far, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement issued on behalf of the group.
The Quartet meeting, held at the Dead Sea in Jordan, was attended also by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and the European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten.
In its statement, the Quartet hailed the appointment of Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas and the "strong start he and his Government have made in difficult circumstances," as well as the acceptance by both sides of the roadmap which envisages, in 2005, two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.
The statement also welcomed "the very positive message and personal commitment of President Bush and his decision to place a mission on the ground charged with helping the parties to move toward peace, through establishment of a credible and effective structure led by the United States, in close cooperation with the Quartet, to coordinate, monitor, and promote implementation of the parties' commitments and responsibilities, as laid out in the roadmap."
Quartet members deplored and condemned the "brutal terror attacks" against Israeli citizens carried out by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade since the roadmaps presentation, and called calls for an "immediate, comprehensive end to all violence."
"All Palestinian individuals and groups must end acts of terror against all Israelis, anywhere," the statement stressed, calling on the Palestinian authorities to take "all possible steps" to halt immediately the activities of individuals and groups planning and conducting attacks on Israelis. States were called on to assist Palestinian efforts to restructure and consolidate all security services under Prime Minister Abbas.
"The Quartet welcomes the discussions between Israel and Palestinian authorities over transfer of security responsibility in Gaza and Bethlehem," Mr. Annan noted, calling on both sides to agree on arrangements and timetables to achieve this.
At the same time, the statement voiced the Quartet's "deep concern" over Israeli military actions that result in the killing of innocent Palestinian and other civilians. "Such actions do not enhance security and undermine trust and prospects for cooperation," the statement noted. "While the Quartet recognizes Israel's right to self-defense in the face of terrorist attacks against its citizens, it calls on the Government of Israel to respect international humanitarian law and to exert maximum efforts to avoid such civilian casualties."
Israel was also called on to make all possible efforts to support Palestinian authorities and ease the plight of the Palestinian people through immediate actions. "The Quartet strongly urges Israel to facilitate movement of people and goods, as well as access by international humanitarian organizations," Mr. Annan said.
In addition, the Quartet recalled its position that "settlements activity must stop" and welcomed first steps on the ground to remove unauthorized outposts.
"The Quartet reaffirms its commitment to a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including progress toward peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon," Mr. Annan said. Recalling milestone agreements constituting the basis for action, he said the Quartet looks forward to continuing to work together in close consultation on these issues with the parties."
At a press conference held today with Secretary Powell, Mr. Annan was asked about the effectiveness of his repeated appeals for an end to violence. "The fact that one raises one's voice to try and change direction, to try and appeal to people to do the right thing, the fact that it doesn't happen today does not mean that it's irrelevant and one should not speak out," he replied. "Individuals or third parties getting involved and saying, 'Stop it, it's enough, the people don't deserve this, your people have had enough,' is an important message, and I think we should keep raising our voices even if it doesn't stop the fighting today or tomorrow."