“I have repeatedly made it quite clear to Israel’s leaders that the Israeli policy of closure is not sustainable and that it is wrong. It poses unacceptable suffering of human beings,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The Secretary-General was in the Middle East delivering the statement of The Quartet, which met in Moscow on Friday.
The Quartet is the group mediating Middle East peace efforts and consists of Russia, represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the European Union by Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, the United Nations by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the United States by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Quartet’s Special Representative, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also attended. Their statement, released on Friday is summarized by AlJazeera; the Quartet “welcomes the readiness,” to resume final peace talks with all parties, setting a 2012 deadline and saying, “The Quartet believes these negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.” They go on to expressly condemn and call for a halt and reversal of all Israeli expansion programs, and a dismantling of their occupation of East Jerusalem. They also demand and immediate halt to violence, specifically calling on the Palestinian Authority to cease firing rockets into Israel, insisting on, “…an immediate end to violence and terror and for calm to be respected.” They also call for Hammas to stop human rights violations on the Gaza Stip, and for both parties to immediately resume peaceful cooperation toward a final agreement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not halt their construction programs in East Jerusalem and told reporters that he would “make his position clear,” to President Obama when he visits Washington on Tuesday, March 30th. VOA reports, US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, “…met Mr. Netanyahu Sunday to try to start indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli prime minister heads to Washington Sunday night to address a major pro-Israel lobbying group and meet with congressional leaders.” The Palestinian Authority has insisted that no peace talks will resume until Israeli settlements are halted, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip lifted that has been in place since 2007.