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Middle East Quartet Calls For Continued International Assistance To Palestinians

The Middle East Quartet, comprising of the United Nations, Russia, the United States and the European Union, appealed Wednesday for continued international support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its democratic and institutional building efforts.

The appeal was made in a statement issued after a meeting of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Washington, DC on Wednesday.

The meeting was also attended by Former British Prime Minister and current Quartet Representative Tony Blair as well as Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. While Judeh briefed the Quartet on Jordan's engagement in resolving the Middle East issues, the Quartet underscored its support for the positive efforts initiated by Jordan's King Abdullah.

In the statement issued after the meeting, the diplomatic group highlighted the need for continued international support for the Palestinian Authority's important institution-building efforts, and encouraged the PA to continue working toward this end.

In this regard, the Quartet called on the international community to ensure the contribution of $1.1 billion in assistance to meet the PA's 2012 recurrent financing requirements. The group also welcomed joint efforts by Israel and the PA to resolve outstanding issues related to tax and customs revenue collection and urged their conclusion as soon as possible.

"The Quartet noted with concern the increasing fragility of developments on the ground and called on the parties to work constructively together to take concrete steps to address the Palestinian Authority's fiscal challenges, preserve and build on the Palestinian Authority's institutional gains, and expand economic opportunities for the Palestinian people," the statement said.

The diplomatic group also reaffirmed its commitment to examine possible mechanisms "it can actively support going forward, individually and together, to advance peace efforts and strengthen the PA's ability to meet the full range of civil and security needs of the Palestinian people both now and in a future state."

Expressing concerns on the ongoing violence and incitement by Jewish settlers in the West Bank, the group urged Israel to take effective measures to address the issue, including bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice. The Quartet also condemned the continued rocket attacks on southern Israel by militants in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need for calm and security for both Palestine as well as Israel.

The statement also stressed on the importance of continued efforts to address the needs of Gaza's residents, and welcomed Israeli government's recent approval of UN priority infrastructure projects in Gaza. The group said that the situation in and around Gaza would continue to remain fragile and unsustainable as long as the West Bank and Gaza "are not reunited under the legitimate Palestinian Authority adhering to the PLO commitments."

Reminding all involved parties of their obligations under a previously agreed peace plan, the group urged them to avoid actions that undermine trust and to focus on positive efforts that would strengthen and improve the climate for a resumption of direct negotiations. The group also urged both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from taking unilateral and provocative actions, while reiterating its commitment to remain actively involved in the ongoing efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

The previous 2003 peace plan requires Israel to dismantle settlement outposts erected since 2001 and freeze all settlement activities, while Palestinians are required to halt all violence against Israel. It is expected to ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Currently, US-initiated negotiations to end the Middle East conflict are deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend a construction freeze that expired on September 26, 2010.

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