The Quartet Principles - Secretary Rice, UNSG Ban Ki-Moon, the EU's Solana, Steinmeier, and Ferrero-Waldner, and Russian FM Lavrov - met today in Berlin. I've been accused of overindulging in Quartet textual analysis in the past, so I'll resist the temptation this time, and just point to a few noteworthy snippets.
Quartet connoisseurs can read the full statement here. The Quartet's latest position is one of its most comprehensive to date, which, on the one hand, means that it has a bit of everything; but on the other, it means that there's actually some useful stuff in there. The predictable (and necessary) condemnations of violence and calls for a ceasefire, and endorsements of President Abbas are all there. Less expected may be the call to release the arrested Palestinian government and Parliament members, and for Israel to resume the transfer of Palestinian tax and customs revenues. There is also a major focus on the Arab peace initiative, recently relaunched at the Riyadh Summit, as a vehicle for moving forward a regional peace process. The statement ends with a tantalizing hint that the Quartet might actually do something.
Looking ahead, the Quartet discussed a calendar for the coming months to support and encourage progress on the bilateral and regional tracks. The Quartet principals agreed to meet in the region in June with the Israelis and Palestinians to review progress and discuss the way forward. The Quartet also agreed to meet in the region with members of the Arab League to follow up on the Arab Peace Initiative and efforts to advance the regional track.
The problem, as ever, will be in the follow-up. The Quartet has still failed to actually develop a mechanism for moving an agenda with the parties. Three of the Quartet members have an envoy. The US does not. But this structural gap can always be plugged, the more important missing ingredient is the lack of political will and of a political plan.