Russia pushes ‘Quartet Plus’ effort on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Moscow wants UAE, Bahrain and other Arab states who have peace deals with Israel included in talks

An armed Israeli soldier stands guard as Palestinian laborers wait in line to receive a dose of the Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center at the Meitar checkpoint crossing into Israel, south of Hebron, West Bank, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Israel started to vaccinate Palestinian laborers who work inside its borders and in West Bank settlements on Monday, in a boost for Israeli builders and the Palestinian economy. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg
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Russia on Thursday pushed ahead with efforts to bring the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries around the table to break an impasse in peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Russia’s deputy UN envoy, Dmitry Polyanskiy, urged the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Bahrain to join the Quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN for a ministerial-level meeting this year.

“In the course of this meeting, we could have an overview of the current state of affairs and also outline the key areas for joint work so as to overcome the stalemate in the settlement process,”  Mr Polyanskiy said.

“We hope this idea will be supported and would like to receive proposals and comments from all those interested, so that we can prepare such a meeting in a well-rounded and thorough manner.”

Moscow said the UAE and Bahrain should play a role in talks because they signed the Abraham Accord, which normalised relations with Israel, last year.

Jordan and Egypt have decades-old peace treaties with Israel.

Addressing an online meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, Mr Polyanskiy said that Saudi Arabia, as the "author of the Arab Peace Initiative" of 2002, could have a seat at the table.

Envoys from the Quartet met this week for the first time since September 2018 with the aim of ending decades of violence between Israelis and Palestinians under a two-state solution deal.

On Twitter, UN peace envoy Tor Wennesland said they discussed “Covid-19, the unsustainable disparity in economic development between Israelis and Palestinians, and the need for the parties to refrain from unilateral actions”.

Moscow’s refocus on the Quartet came after changes in Washington’s long-standing role as the lead negotiator between Israeli and Palestinian diplomats.

Under a failed peace proposal by the administration of Donald Trump, the US would have recognised Jewish settlements in occupied territory as part of Israel.

Joe Biden's administration has reaffirmed support for the creation of a Palestinian state, but it is unclear whether solving the dispute is a priority in Washington.

There is also uncertainty about the future direction of politics in Israel and Palestine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is struggling to form a government since a general election on Tuesday, and Palestinians are preparing to go to the polls in coming months.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.