Quartet countries call for US co-operation on Middle East peace process

Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France are ready to work with the Biden administration on Israel-Palestine negotiations

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 23, 2020 a Palestinian man looks towards the Israeli settlement of Shavei Shomron built next to the Palestinian village of Naqoura, west of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Israel's prime minister on January 11, 2021 directed authorities to approve construction of 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank days before President Donald Trump's pro-Israel administration leaves office. / AFP / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH
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In a thinly veiled message to president-elect Joe Biden, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France said on Monday they were ready to work with Washington to further Middle East peace negotiations that would lead to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the turbulent region.

A joint statement by the four ministers also commended recent normalisation deals between Arab states and Israel, saying they contributed to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution. The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalised relations with Israel during the second half of 2020 in accords sponsored by the United States.

The ministers met in Cairo “to pursue their co-ordination and consultation on means to advance the Middle East Peace Process towards a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the statement said.

They “emphasised their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, ensuring an independent and viable Palestinian state based on June 4, 1967 lines and UN Security Council resolutions, living side by side [in] a secure and recognised Israel.”

Turning to Washington, which has for decades been the chief international sponsor of the Middle East peace process, the ministers “expressed willingness to work with the United States towards facilitating negotiations leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, based on the internationally recognised parameters, and relaunching a credible peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis”.

Mr Biden, a Democrat who defeated US President Donald Trump in the election on November 3, will be inaugurated on January 20. With a packed domestic agenda that includes dealing with the surging coronavirus death toll, and the need to reunite Americans after the divisive vote, commentators in the region believe his administration is unlikely to give its full attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for weeks, or even months.

The ministers also called on Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any unilateral measures that could undermine the future of a fair and lasting solution.

“They also concurred that the building and expansion of settlements, and confiscation of Palestinian structures and properties are a violation of international law that undermine the viability of the two-state solution,” the statement said.

The quartet comprising Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France was established on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, held last February. It is essentially designed to co-ordinate policies on the Middle East peace process and encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to revive their peace talks, which have been frozen for years.

It last met in Amman, Jordan’s capital, in September. It also met in July and issued a warning to Israel against annexing Palestinian territories, saying that doing so would jeopardise bilateral relations.

Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel, while France and Germany are among the region’s biggest trade partners and enjoy close relations with most Arab states as well as Israel.