24 June 2008 – The Middle East diplomatic Quartet today stressed the urgent need for more visible progress on the ground to support ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at settling their conflict, and voiced hope that the current calm in Gaza will continue.
In a statement issued following their meeting in Berlin, the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States stated that Israel’s removal of some major West Bank checkpoints and the opening of Palestinian police stations represent good steps.
“Greater efforts are required now to project a new reality, including through further urgent steps to improve access and movement,” the group added.
The Quartet urged the parties to build on their efforts, fulfilling their obligations under the Road Map and refraining from any steps that undermine confidence or could prejudice the outcome of negotiations aimed at reaching a settlement by the end of 2008 on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and an end to the conflict.
In particular, the Quartet reiterated its deep concern at continuing settlement activity and called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001.
Meeting for the first time since the Israeli Government and Palestinian militants announced a cessation of violence in Gaza last week, the Quartet “urged that the calm be respected in full and expressed the hope that it would endure, and lead to improved security for Palestinians and Israelis alike, and a return to normal civilian life in Gaza.”
It also looked forward to greater humanitarian and commercial flows through the Gaza crossings, and expressed its strong support for the “steady and sufficient” supplies of fuel to the area.
The Quartet added that it looked forward to meeting again in September at the UN General Assembly, at which time it will consider the timing and agenda of an international meeting in Moscow to lend support to the peace process launched in the US city of Annapolis late last year.
Participating in today’s meeting were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (via videoconference from New York), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. They were joined by Quartet Representative Tony Blair.