No sign of Middle East talks after Quartet meeting
Meeting on ways to avert diplomatic showdown at UN in September ends
with no progress; senior US official: "We need to do more work,
WASHINGTON - The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators failed to
announce any progress toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
after a lengthy meeting on Monday, saying there are still gaps between
the two sides.
The group, which includes the European Union, Russia, the United Nations
and the United States, ended a roughly two-hour and 15-minute dinner
meeting in Washington without issuing a statement.
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The Quartet wants to find a way to resume talks and to avert a
diplomatic showdown expected at the United Nations in September, when
the Palestinians may seek wider international recognition for a
"There are still gaps that are impeding progress," said a senior Obama
administration official who briefed reporters after the meeting on
condition of anonymity. "Realistically ... more work needs to be done to
close those gaps."
"There is a time and a place for public statements and there is a time
and a place for private diplomacy," he added. "We need to do more work,
privately, quietly, with the parties, in order to see if we can't close
The official declined to discuss the nature of the gaps and he said the
Quartet perceives "an urgent need to appeal to the parties to overcome
current obstacles and find a way to resume direct negotiations without
delay or preconditions."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the dinner, which was
attended by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton,
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
and former British prime minister Tony Blair, a Quartet envoy.
More than half way through his four-year term, President Barack Obama
has failed to bring Israel and the Palestinians into sustained talks to
end their conflict and appears all but certain to miss a September 2011
target for a framework deal.
In a May 19 speech, Obama laid down his clearest markers to date on the
compromises he believes Israel and the Palestinians must make for peace
and he argued that when talks resume they should focus first on the
issues of territory and security.
The result of the speech, which the White House hoped might help lay the
ground for a new push for peace, was more clarity on how the United
States sees an ultimate peace deal but no real impetus for fresh
negotiations that might deliver one.