Mideast Quartet: Israel, Palestinians must tackle violence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators urged Israel and the Palestinians on Thursday to address an array of challenges — ongoing violence in the West Bank, the advancement of new settlement units in Palestinian territories, and “the untenable fiscal crisis within the Palestinian Authority.”

A statement following an in-person meeting of Quartet envoys from the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia in Norway’s capital, Oslo, welcomed steps announced by Israel “to reach out to the Palestinian Authority and to assist with the fiscal crisis.”

But the envoys said they remain “deeply concerned by developments in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”

“In this context, the Quartet highlights the urgent need for all parties to take additional steps to address these challenges directly through fiscal and other reforms, as well as to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undermine the prospects for peace,” the statement said.

The envoys said there is a “pressing need to address the fragile situation in Gaza ... by ensuring continued humanitarian efforts and an easing of access and movement restrictions for people and goods.” They called for support of “all relevant stakeholders, including in the region.”

The envoys also underscored “the importance of respect for human rights and the actions of civil society groups.”

The Quartet was established in 2002 and has been criticized for its failure to get either Israel or the Palestinian Authority to change their policies and negotiate an end to their decades-old conflict.

In January, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there were “reasons to hope” for progress toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after years of inaction, which some observers saw as a possibility with the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and the inauguration of President Joe Biden. But the year saw an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers in May and as it nears an end there has been no movement toward peace.

For more than three decades, the Palestinians have sought an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a crippling blockade when the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in 2007.

The Quartet envoys “highlighted the urgency of the situation and the importance of taking constructive steps to advance a two-State solution” and “agreed to work toward a resolution of the conflict and continue consultations with the parties and key regional actors.”