Middle East mediators seek to revive Israel-Palestine peace talks (REUTERS) By Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON 04/11/12 10:23pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Middle East peace mediators on Wednesday criticized
Israeli settlement building and called on donors to meet aid pledges
to the Palestinians as they sought to revive moribund peace talks.
The so-called Quartet - the European Union, Russia, the United
Nations and the United States - said they stood behind their
September 23, 2011, call for the parties to reach a peace deal by the
end of 2012, an objective that seems increasingly remote.
While welcoming plans for the prime ministers of Israel and the
Palestinian Authority to meet later this month, the group also
cited "the increasing fragility of developments on the ground" and
chided Israel for "continued settlement activity."
The rare talks between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers
may only sharpen differences that have brought peace negotiations to
The Palestinians said they would give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu a letter spelling out Israel´s failure to implement a
2003 "road map" that includes a halt to settlement activity as a step
towards achieving a final peace agreement.
An Israeli official said Netanyahu would reiterate, at the meeting
with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, his call for peace
talks to get under way without any preconditions.
U.S. .-sponsored peace negotiations froze in late 2010 after
Netanyahu rejected Palestinian demands that he extend the 10-month
partial construction freeze he had imposed at Washington´s behest to
coax them into talks.
"The Quartet expressed concern about unilateral and provocative
actions by either party, including continued settlement activity,
which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations, the only way to a
just and durable solution to the conflict," the group said in a
The group issued the statement after a meeting attended by U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which
are home to 2.5 million Palestinians.
Most world powers deem the Jewish settlements illegal. Israel, which
cites historical and biblical links to those areas, disputes that and
has said it will keep major settlement blocs under any eventual peace
In their statement, the Quartet urged donors to give $1.1 billion in
aid to meet the Palestinian Authority´s funding needs this year.
"The Quartet noted with concern the increasing fragility of
developments on the ground and called on the parties to work
constructively together to take concrete steps to address the
Palestinian Authority´s fiscal challenges, preserve and build on the
Palestinian Authority´s institutional gains, and expand economic
opportunities for the Palestinian people," it said.
The State Department said it had notified the U.S. Congress that it
planned to release $58.6 million in U.S. economic aid to the
Palestinian Authority, a move taken despite the objections of a
senior Republican lawmaker.
An aide to Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, said she still objected to the release of
some of the money but that the Obama administration was overriding
"The U.S. has given $3 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the last
five years alone, and what do we have to show for it?" Ros-Lehtinen
said in a statement released by her office. "Now the administration
is sending even more. Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer
dollars?" (Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; additional reporting by
Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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