The international diplomatic Quartet of Mideast peacemakers urged the Israelis and Palestinians on Friday to return to long-stalled negotiations and reach an agreement no later than the end of next year.
Seeking to avert a crisis over the Palestinian's bid for U.N. membership and recognition as a state, the quartet members _ the U.S., EU, U.N., and Russia _ said in a statement that it was critical to "overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations." They acknowledged that meetings alone would not create the trust necessary for successful negotiations and so they proposed a timeline for progress that it urged the two parties to embrace.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the statement was a "concrete and detailed proposal to begin negotiations without delay or preconditions."
"The Quartet proposal represents the firm conviction of the international community that a just and lasting peace can only come through negotiations between the parties," she said. "Therefore we urge both parties to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to talks."
Within 30 days, the Israelis and Palestinians should agree to an agenda and parameters for peace talks and produce comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months, the statement said. The Quartet said it then expected the parties to "have made substantial progress" within six months. To help the two sides, it said Russia would host an international conference at some point in the process.
The statement was issued after days of intense negotiations and just hours after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas formally sought recognition for Palestine, something vehemently opposed by Israel and the United States in the absence of a peace deal. The Quartet statement took note of Abbas' submission to the U.N. Security Council but did not mention it further. The U.S. has vowed to veto the move in the Security Council, which is expected to take up the matter on Monday.
The Quartet statement was radically different from what diplomats had been hoping to draft since it became clear that Abbas would not back down. U.S. and European officials had been trying to craft a statement that would itself outline parameters of the negotiations, including a reference to borders being based on the 1967 lines and affirm Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
Instead, the Quartet focused on proposing deadlines for steps the two sides should take.
The final statement repeats the goal of having a deal done in one year's time that President Barack Obama proposed in 2010. Obama had wanted a peace deal by the beginning of this September but was forced to retreat when talks broke down after less than one month and never resumed.