Mediators meet to discuss growing tension in Mideast

The so-called Middle East Quartet, of Russia, the U.S., the UN and the European Union, has called for Palestinians to stop using violence to achieve their aims in the conflict with Israel.

The group is concerned about the rising violence in the Middle East and has called for another round of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in June, with the help of the Quartet and the Arab League.

In terms of Gaza, the Quartet has urged the warring parties, the rival groups, Hamas and Fatan to endorse the call by President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas to end the fighting. At the same time, they call for the BBC journalist Alan Johnston and the kidnapped Palestinian soldier, Gilad Shalit, to be released.

As for Israel, the Quartet has urged the state to show restraint in its military activities after Qassam rockets were fired at Southern Israeli towns, particularly the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon.  

“The Quartet urged Israel to exercise restraint to ensure that its security operations avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. It noted that the detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature raises particular concerns and called for them to be released,” pointed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Russian Foreign Minister said the situation at the moment is deeply concerning.   

“We need a comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict. And in order to achieve that, we’ve tried to have a more active approach since last September. We also had meetings with the Arab League representatives last month and we will be building on this joint activity. Today we’ve invited all the sides concerned to talk to us. And in June there is going to be a meeting of the Quartet together with Israelis and the Palestinians,” Sergey Lavrov said. 

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in answer to a question as to whether or not this meeting changes anything in terms of concrete solutions on the ground, said that it’s never the right time to address the violence in the Middle East, particularly the violence concerning the Israelis and the Palestinians. But she did paint a positive picture when she said over the past six months a number of meetings have been held and more efforts will be made to address the situation. 

Next week Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet in the Palestinian town of Jericho. The Quartet welcomed such dialogue and said it was also pleased with the Arab League’s re-endorsement of a plan that in principle recognizes Israel.