Quartet ‘strongly supports’ Palestinian state

UN chief Ban Ki-moon began a visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel on Saturday, saying the Middle East Quartet “strongly supports” Palestinian efforts to create their own state.

He kicked off his two-day visit by meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank political capital of Ramallah.

He is also expected to meet senior Israeli officials and to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, still largely in ruins following an Israeli military campaign at the start of last year.

Ban arrived in Ramallah a day after the Quartet called for Israel to halt all settlement construction and for a peace deal with the Palestinians by 2012.

“The Quartet has sent a clear and strong message: we are strongly supporting your efforts to establish an independent and viable Palestinian state,” he told Fayyad ahead of formal talks.


Before those talks, Fayyad had taken Ban to a vantage point above Ramallah to show him a large swathe of West Bank territory under exclusive Israeli control and off limits to Palestinian development.

‘Living under restriction’
Ban “will see for himself how difficult it is,” Fayyad said before the UN secretary general arrived, “but he will also see how determined we are to create positive facts on the ground”.

Fayyad claims 60% of the West Bank consists of land in so-called Area C, under exclusive Israeli control, and that 70 000 Palestinians live in such zones.

Following the tour, Ban said: “I have seen for myself plainly and clearly how Palestinians are living under such restriction and limitation. Even in your territory your are not able to develop or even maintain a normal economic life.”

On Friday, the Quartet [the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States) issued an ambitious statement after a meeting of senior officials in Moscow aimed at getting moribund peace talks back on track.

“The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity … to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem,” he said.

It also urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks on final status issues — security, borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem — to find a settlement within 24 months.

Such a deal would end “the occupation which began in 1967 and result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” Ban said.

Israel irked by deadline
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was particularly irked by the two-year deadline.

“Peace cannot be imposed artificially and with an unrealistic calendar,” he was quoted as saying in an address to the Jewish community in Brussels.

“This type of statement only harms the possibilities of reaching an accord.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat welcomed the Quartet’s call, but asked for a mechanism to “make sure that Israel does effectively halt completely all settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem”.

And speaking before his meeting with Ban, Fayyad said of the Quartet statement: “we regard it as a progressive statement encompassing all the key elements that should govern how the political process proceeds.”

Last week, Israel announced plans to build 1 600 new settler homes. That infuriated its chief ally Washington, coming as US Vice-President Joe Biden visited the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Clinton late on Thursday following a tense call last week during which she urged him to halt the settler plans.

Clinton said Friday the strong US reaction to Israeli settlement plans was “paying off”.

The Palestinians had refused to return to the negotiating table until all construction was halted, but were persuaded by Washington to enter into indirect talks. It is not now clear what their stance is, and Ban might be planning to encourage them to do so.

The flurry of diplomatic activity comes as tensions remain high between the two sides and have spilled over into deadly violence. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The pandemic creates ideal conditions for the rise of populism

The state of politics and geopolitics has been exacerbated, rather than stabilised, by the coronavirus crisis

Netanyahu claims Israel election win despite corruption charges

Monday's election left the veteran right-winger in prime position to form a government and end a year of political deadlock, after similar votes in April and September proved inconclusive

Angered by police killing, Ethiopian-Israelis demand change

Solomon Teka's death has been a deeply personal tragedy for his family, but for the wider Ethiopian-Israeli community, he has become a symbol as well

Palestinians say truce reached with Israel to end deadly escalation

Israel also lifted restrictions on civilian movements in communities around the Gaza border on Monday morning

South Africa must strengthen solidarity with Palestine

The two countries have similar experiences in injustices and systemic oppression

Netanyahu on path for victory in Israeli election

Netanyahu sought to portray himself as Israel's essential statesman in the run-up to the vote and highlighted his bond with US President Donald Trump
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday