President Abbas explains in New York Palestinians’ principles in their endeavors towards peace

International Quartet, UN, EU urge Israel to extend settlement freeze moratorium

President Mubarak: Tough decisions to achieve peace is inevitable step

Freedom Flotilla incidents probe panel condemns Israel

International calls to bring Syria, Lebanon into peace process

The Middle East Quartet currently shepherding newly started direct negotiations between Israel and the American-backed Palestinian Authority has abruptly canceled a planned press conference at the United Nations, after failing to reach agreement on who would appear on behalf of the group.

Senior diplomats from the Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — met on the sidelines of the UN anti-poverty meeting to discuss a way forward in the negotiations, which have made little visible progress since they resumed earlier this month.

The Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, and European Union) noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium instituted last November has had a positive impact and urged its continuation.

It expressed its strong support for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which can resolve all final status issues within one year.

The Quartet reaffirmed its full commitment to its previous statements, which provide that negotiations should lead to an agreement that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.

It also confirmed its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement.

Noting that mutual trust and confidence are critical to successful negotiations, the Quartet reiterated its call on Israel and the Palestinians to promote an environment conducive to progress, including by refraining from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.

The Quartet noted that the commendable Israeli settlement moratorium instituted last November has had a positive impact and urged its continuation.

The Quartet recalled that unilateral actions by either party, including settlement activity, cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.

The Quartet called upon both sides to fulfill their obligations under the Road Map. The Quartet encouraged the parties to work together to find a way to ensure that negotiations continue in a constructive manner and urged the international community to support their efforts.

The Quartet underscored its commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive Middle East peace, including Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese agreements. In the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, the Quartet called on Arab states to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and progress on the other tracks by taking bolder steps to foster positive relations throughout the region and to combat violence and extremism.

Recalling that change on the ground is integral to peace, the Quartet reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian Authority's August 2009 plan for building the institutions of a Palestinian state within two years.

The Quartet commended the significant progress toward that goal as reported by international institutions to the 21 September 2010 meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee.

The Quartet took particular note of statement in the Economic Monitoring Report of the World Bank that “If the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.”

The Quartet called for Israel to take further steps to facilitate Palestinian state-building and economic growth. The Quartet welcomed measures Israel has already taken to improve day-to-day life for Palestinians, including the easing of restrictions on movement in the West Bank and improved Gaza access, and commended the work of the Quartet Representative in helping to achieve that change.

The Quartet further called upon Arab states and the international community to provide immediate and sustained support for the Palestinian Authority.

The Quartet reaffirmed that the current situation in Gaza is not in the interests of Palestinians or Israelis and restated its desire to see progress on the implementation of all aspects of Security Council resolution 1860.

Reconfirming its statement of 21 June 2010 the Quartet welcomed the significant shift in Israel's Gaza policy since June 2010 and called for further efforts by all concerned to ensure the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods, and persons to and from Gaza and to address Israel's legitimate security concerns.

The Quartet also took positive note of approvals of UN and other international projects in Gaza and expressed its desire to see further progress in the near future. The Quartet reiterated its support for efforts to restore Palestinian unity based on the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Quartet condemned in the strongest possible terms continuing violence against Israeli and Palestinian civilians, in particular the August 31, 2010 attack near Hebron, for which Hamas claimed responsibility while threatening additional attacks.

The Quartet urged a complete halt to all violence and reiterated its call on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian and human rights law. The Quartet reiterated its call for the immediate release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Quartet committed to remain actively involved on all tracks and to encourage and review progress. The Quartet agreed to meet regularly and to task the envoys and the Quartet Representative to intensify their cooperation, to maintain contacts with the Arab League Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative, and to formulate recommendations for Quartet action.

The Quartet reaffirmed its support, in consultation with the parties, for an international conference in Moscow at the appropriate time, concurrent with direct negotiations.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have already urged Netanyahu to extend the moratorium on new settlement activity on land in the West Bank captured in the 1967 war.

The Palestinians have said they will drop out of the peace talks, launched just this month with Obama's backing, unless the freeze continues. But Netanyahu has been reluctant to take that step, which could effect his ruling coalition dominated by pro-settler parties.

The Quartet draft statement repeated the group's backing for the current peace talks and reaffirmed its hopes for a deal within one year that will see a viable Palestinian state emerge side-by-side with Israel.

The statement urged both sides to refrain from "provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric," and called upon Israel to further ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- a step the World Bank says will be important for the economic viability of a future Palestinian state.

It stressed the importance of parallel peace deals between Israel, Syria and Lebanon and called on Arab states "to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and progress on the other tracks by taking bolder steps to foster positive relations throughout the region and to combat violence and extremism."

The group's statement condemned continued violence against both sides, particularly an attack in the occupied West Bank which killed four Israelis on Aug. 31 and was claimed by the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which has rejected the current peace negotiations.

It also repeated calls on Arab states to step up financial support for the fledgling Palestinian Authority, which needs much more help as it seeks to take on more of the attributes of full statehood in advance of a possible peace deal.

The statement committed the group -- the main guarantors of any future Middle East peace deal -- to remain involved in the negotiations, and said it supported holding an international Mideast peace conference in Moscow at a date yet to be determined.

A diplomatic source said Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in New York on Monday, a week after the latest round of Middle East peace talks ended without visible signs of progress on the settlement issue.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose position is largely ceremonial, met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting, the source said.

It remains unclear when Abbas will next hold talks with Netanyahu. They have held two rounds of direct talks since the negotiations resumed on Sept. 2, after a 20-month hiatus.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state is unnecessary.

"I say to Israeli citizens, including Jews, Muslims and others, that there is no such thing as a state in which all the citizens are Jews," Mubarak told Israel's Channel One network.

"In Egypt, we have Muslims, Christians and Jews and there is no problem. When they wanted to establish a Muslim state in Kosovo, the world came out against it because it did not want a Muslim state in central Europe," he said in the interview broadcast Saturday night.

The Egyptian leader cautioned Israel against renewing construction in West Bank settlements once the building freeze expires Sept. 26, saying such a move could torpedo current peace efforts and plunge the region into violence.

A continued settlement freeze and serious negotiations could lead to a framework peace agreement within a few months, the Egyptian leader said.

"This issue requires tough decisions to be made by courageous leaders and I think that Prime Minister (Binyamin) Netanyahu can make tough decisions," Mubarak said.

On the other hand, a UN probe bashes Israel for committing "willful killing" and torture when its troops attacked a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

The inquiry ordered by the UN Human Rights Council said Israel used "unnecessary violence" during the attack.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, that killed nine Turkish activists, "constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law," AFP quoted the report.

The scathing report also dismissed Tel Aviv's allegations that activists aboard the flotilla's largest ship, the MV Mavi Marmara, were violent thereby justifying the decision by Israeli soldiers to open fire, adding that some of the activists killed were victim of actions "consistent with...summary execution."

The aid flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, was carrying humanitarian aid, medical supplies, and construction materials to Gaza which has been under tight Israeli blockade since the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, seized control in June 2007.

The UN probe also termed as 'unlawful' the continuation of the blockade that has caused great physical and mental harm to the Gaza resident.

"The blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law. This is so regardless of the grounds on which it is sought to justify the legality of the blockade," said the inquiry report.

The probe report is expected to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

The renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians has led to a revival on the Syrian track as well. French and American envoys to the peace process have visited Damascus, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hastened there in their wake, reflecting his fear that Syria will weaken its strategic alliance with the Iranians. Turkey also announced its interest in mediating between Jerusalem and Damascus once again, in spite of the crisis in its relations with Israel following the flotilla incident in late May.

Only in Israel is there silence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ignoring Syria ever since he returned to power and has not responded to the repeated peace feelers of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The repeated failures over the course of 19 years of negotiations with the Syrians have not led to a perpetuation of the status quo or to the strengthening of Israel’s strategic situation.

On the contrary: They have led to the strengthening of Israel’s hostile northern front. Netanyahu has an opportunity to achieve a peace agreement that will provide great advantages to this country.

U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell praised Lebanon's efforts in advancing the Middle East peace process on Friday, saying Lebanon is a vital part of the regional peace negotiation.

"We believe that Lebanon is a vital part of the comprehensive Middle East peace," Mitchell said after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Defense Minister Elias Murr.

"The central point is that without Lebanon there will not be comprehensive peace in this region," he added.

Mitchell also reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces.

"The Lebanese Army is the symbol of a united Lebanon," Mitchell said.

The envoy's visit is part of his regional tour which also includes Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria.

Mitchell, who also visited the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in south of Lebanon, said that Lebanon and Syria should be involved in the Middle East peace process.