Quartet members expect indirect talks to be held soon
Two members of the international quartet of Middle East mediators suggested on Friday that stalled indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians may be unblocked in coming days. Speaking after a meeting in Moscow of the group -- comprising the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia -- quartet envoy Tony Blair told Reuters he hoped for a package of measures to get the talks started.
"I hope very much that in the next few days we will have a package that gives people the sense that, yes, despite all the difficulties of the past few days, it is worth having proximity talks and then those leading to direct negotiations," he conveyed.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Moscow for the quartet meeting, also suggested progress. She said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had given a "useful and productive" response to her concerns on the settlement issue during a telephone conversation on Thursday.
The quartet called for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of producing an agreement within 24 months.
The quartet called on Israel and the Palestinians to avoid "provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric" and told Israel to freeze all settlement building, dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and halt demolitions in East Jerusalem. "We are convinced that this was all heard in Israel and that they have correctly understood," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who hosted the meeting, told reporters.