January 31, 2014
Officials from the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union will meet on Saturday to discuss how they can help U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s drive for a Middle East peace deal, the EU said on Friday.
The officials from the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators will meet in Munich on the sidelines of the annual security conference there.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would chair the meeting with Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Tony Blair, the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East.
“This meeting takes place in a moment when difficult and bold decisions need to be made,” Ashton said in a statement ahead of the meeting. “The dividends of peace for Israelis and Palestinians are enormous.”
Ashton said she hopes that “together we can help those decisions to become a reality to continue working towards a negotiated peace agreement, setting an end to the conflict and fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both parties.”
Kerry is expected to brief his peers about recent efforts to secure a draft framework peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Majed Faraj, the head of Palestinian intelligence services, traveled to Washington earlier this week to meet with Kerry and his team. The U.S. team met the previous week with Israeli negotiators Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Isaac Molho.
Kerry is likely looking to shore up international support for his efforts to draft a framework deal, as he is arriving in Munich following a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Steinmeier visited Jerusalem and Ramallah about two weeks ago, and Merkel is due in the region in less than a month. Kerry, presumably, is seeking German help in pressuring Israelis and Palestinians to accept his proposal for a framework agreement, which he is planning to unveil in the coming weeks.
Kerry has toiled for six months to push Palestinians and Israelis towards an elusive peace deal to end their generations-old conflict.
But, with both sides far apart on many core issues including borders, security, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the future status of Jerusalem, many Palestinians and Israelis believe the talks are going nowhere.