Mideast Quartet takes stock of peace process
AFP - Sunday, November 9
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AFP) - - The Middle East diplomatic Quartet meets Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday to take stock of the Middle East peace process with no sign that a deal will be reached by year's end.
The gathering in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh comes a year after the peace process was relaunched at a US-sponsored conference after a near seven-year break.
Outgoing US President George W. Bush was hoping to see a deal emerge before he leaves office in January but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made it clear there is no breakthrough in sight.
Political turmoil in Israel which has led to an early election in Israel and a lingering feud between rival Palestinian factions has also hampered efforts to seal a long-elusive deal.
Last November in the US city of Annapolis, Israel and the Palestinians revived negotiations toward resolving core problems like the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and refugees.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will report to the representatives of the Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- on their slow-moving efforts.
Rice has tacitly admitted that Israel and the Palestinians are unlikely to reach a peace deal by the time Bush's mandate ends on January 20.
"The distance to peace has been narrowed although peace has not been achieved," she said after meeting Abbas on Friday during her 19th visit to the Middle East in two years.
In the absence of a full accord, Rice is pushing the two sides to define the outlines of a deal before she hands over the thorny Middle East dossier to the administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
"One of the things we must do is that we must show... that Annapolis has laid the foundation for the establishment of the state of Palestine," she said.
Peace talks have been complicated by the ongoing feud between the Islamist Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, and Abbas's Fatah party, which has held on to the West Bank.
Reconciliation talks between the rival groups and other Palestinian factions which were due to take place on Monday in Cairo have been cancelled after Hamas announced a boycott.
The peace process has been also clouded by the resignation of Israel's scandal-plagued Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that led to the scheduling of snap elections for February.
Israeli opposition leaders have said that the peace process should be put on hold but Livni, a frontrunner to become prime minister, stressed this week that Washington should sustain the momentum.
Abbas has already called on Obama to keep the peace process a top US foreign policy priority and speed up efforts to help seal an agreement.
Sunday's meeting will also be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his counterpart Bernard Kouchner of France, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon will also be present.
Kouchner on Saturday expressed the wish that Europe would in future be more present in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, till now largely dominated by the United States, saying: "The EU is now a political force."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit hosted a dinner banquet for the Quartet on Saturday, and also met separately with Rice, Ban and Abbas, while Rice held a private meeting with Lavrov on Saturday.
The Quartet has long backed a peace deal that would see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel based on a so-called roadmap drafted in 2003.
Recommend this article
Average (0 votes)
Sign in to recommend this article »
Most Recommended Stories »
Related Articles: World
Like Abe and FDR, Obama faces crisesAP - 49 minutes ago
Paloma roars over Cuba; Bahamas may be hit nextAP - 1 hour 1 minute ago
Gay marriage supporters march in SoCalAP - 1 hour 1 minute ago
AP NewsAlertAP - 1 hour 53 minutes ago
Owner of collapsed Haiti school arrested; 88 deadAP - 1 hour 56 minutes ago
A map locating the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Middle East diplomatic Quartet meets Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday to take stock of the Middle East peace process with no sign that a deal will be reached by year's end.
Most Popular – World
Obama: First pooch may be mutt 'like me'
Obama rules out new cabinet picks as jobless rate jumps
GM warns of cash crunch, appeals for bailout
Among Obama's next challenges: his own security
US doctors tell Liu Xiang he needs surgery
View Complete List »