Mediators fail to cook up ideas on restarting peace talks

Already dim prospects for any quick resumption to Mideast peace talks were dealt a blow this week when international mediators meeting in Washington, D.C., failed to reach agreement on how to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Faced with the urgent task of getting the two sides back to the table before the Palestinians seek recognition of an independent state at the U.N. in September, the “Quartet”  of Mideast peacemakers — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — was unable after hours of talks July 11 to produce a unified statement on how to proceed.

Such a statement had been the modest goal of the meeting — as the Quartet usually issues statements following meetings of its top officials.

The Palestinian Authority, according the Jerusalem Post, was hoping the Quartet would call for the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the basis of the pre-1967 lines and a complete cessation of settlement construction.

After no such statement was issued, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused the Quartet of succumbing to Israeli “pressure.”

A senior U.S. official said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov acknowledged that there were significant gaps still impeding progress among both the mediators and the parties themselves. The official said that “much more work” needs to be done before the Quartet can issue a call to relaunch negotiations that stalled last September.

The official refused to elaborate on the gaps but said now was a time for private diplomacy and not public statements, suggesting deep pessimism among the mediators for getting talks restarted before the Palestinians plan to bring their bid for independence before the United Nations General Assembly in September. — ap

The new U.S. special Mideast peace envoy, David Hale, and White House adviser Dennis Ross have been unable to persuade the Palestinians to back off their statehood bid. Israel and the United States support an independent Palestinian state but oppose attempts to establish one without negotiations.

The measure probably will pass, but independence still will need U.N. Security Council approval, something the United States would surely veto.