MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Russia hopes the Quartet of international powers trying to revive Middle East peace talks will meet again on July 16, Itar-Tass quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday.
The meeting would be the first since Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after clashes with the rival Fatah faction, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas named an emergency cabinet to replace the Hamas-Fatah unity government. “We hope that a meeting of the Middle East Quartet will take place on July 16,” Lavrov said. He also said he hoped the Quartet would definitely meet in the Middle East before the end of the month, although he did not specify where. The Quartet comprises Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
The European Union Middle East envoy Marc Otte said on Thursday that a meeting of Quartet ministers had been proposed for July, somewhere in the region. But Otte, speaking after talks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said the date and place had not been finalised.
Aboul Gheit said he planned to visit Israel, together with Jordan’s deputy foreign minister, after returning from a trip to the United States on July 12.
U.S. officials have said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit the Middle East in mid-July.
Israeli-Palestinian talks have been stalled for seven years. Washington wants to relaunch statehood talks with Abbas, who opposes Hamas, in the occupied West Bank. But Israel wants Palestinians first to rein in militants and has resisted pressure to negotiate issues such as the fate of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and borders.
Russia also said that a meeting of the Quartet’s special representatives had been scheduled for July 10 in London. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was last month named the Quartet’s chief envoy.