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China Daily Global / 2021-03 / 25 / Page007

Middle East quartet urge 'meaningful' talks

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-25 00:00

UNITED NATIONS-Members of the so-called Middle East quartet discussed the resumption of "meaningful negotiations" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their first meeting since US President Joe Biden took office.

The body, which comprises the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, met virtually on Tuesday, a UN statement said.

"The Envoys ... met virtually to discuss returning to meaningful negotiations that will lead to a two-state solution, including tangible steps to advance freedom, security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis, which is important in its own right," it said.

They discussed "the need for the parties to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve", an apparent reference to Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

The meeting came as Israel was holding its fourth election in less than two years, with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking to extend his record 12 consecutive years in power.

Expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, communities widely seen as illegal under international law, boomed under his tenure.

The quartet fell largely dormant during the administration of former US president Donald Trump, seen by Palestinians as biased toward Israel. Trump remained quiet as Israel announced new projects to broaden its control of the West Bank.

Biden has indicated his administration will restore traditional US criticism of settlement expansion.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu claimed victory in the election, but the deeply divisive leader may again struggle to form a governing majority.

Projections based on exit polls from Israel's three leading broadcasters, which could change, all show Netanyahu's right-wing Likud winning the most seats in Israel's 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

If the projections reflect the final results expected later this week, Likud could win 30 or 31 seats. Adding Likud's hawkish, religious allies, the pro-Netanyahu camp could control more than 50 seats. Netanyahu described Tuesday's projected results as a "huge win for the right" and his Likud party.

'Badge of approval'

"The exit polls show the Israeli public giving Netanyahu a badge of approval," said Yonatan Freeman of the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"He seemingly brought peace in terms of the medical emergency in Israel but also peace when it comes to Israel's relations with the Arab and Muslim world."

Netanyahu campaigned on a world-leading coronavirus vaccination effort that has inoculated roughly half of Israel's 9 million people. Last year, Israel signed accords with four Arab countries. The agreements were welcomed by all sides of Israel's political map.

If Netanyahu or any of his opponents fails to secure a parliamentary majority, Israel will head to an unprecedented fifth election.

Agencies - Xinhua

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