Quartet on the Middle East
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the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
The Quartet on the Middle East or Middle East Quartet, sometimes called the Diplomatic Quartet or Madrid Quartet or simply the Quartet, is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. The Quartet comprises the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002, recalling Madrid Conference of 1991, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East.
In 2002, the Quartet established the Office of the Quartet in East Jerusalem to take "tangible steps on the ground to advance the Palestinian economy and preserve the possibility of a two state solution." Kito de Boer was the head of the Office from January 2015 to June 2017, assuming the position after the resignation of Tony Blair. The objective of the head of the Office is to promote the Quartet's strategy on Palestinian economic and institutional empowerment, including matters concerning rule of law and economic development, as well as movement and access. The current head of the Office is John N. Clarke.
On 23 March 2021, the Quartet discussed the reviving of "meaningful negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians who both need "to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve."
The initiative to establish the Quartet evolved following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000 and the futile cease-fire attempts that followed. On October 25, 2001, representatives of the EU, UN and the US and Russian governments met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and jointly expressed support for his policy of implementing cease-fire and security reforms in the Palestinian Authority. During the Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas in April 2002, the representatives of the same four entities met in Madrid and again called for implementation of cease-fire agreements brokered by the US government before. In the same meeting, they also agreed to transform their quadripartite cooperation into a permanent forum for follow-up of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank, was appointed Special Envoy for Israel's disengagement from Gaza in April 2005. He stepped down the following year because of restrictions in dealing with the Islamic militant group Hamas and the withholding of money from the Palestinian Authority, risking its collapse.
Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
First ministry and term
Second ministry and term
Third ministry and term
Tony Blair announced that he had accepted the position of the official envoy of the Quartet, the same day he resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as a Member of Parliament on 27 June 2007. The approval came after initial objections by Russia. The United Nations were overseeing the finances and security of his mission, before his resignation on 27 May 2015.
John N. Clarke was appointed as special envoy on 17 January 2018. He previously held the position as deputy head of mission.
Peace efforts and actions
Tony Blair periodically travelled to the Middle East following his appointment as Special Envoy. On a trip there in March 2008, he met with Israeli leaders to discuss recent violence. A planned meeting between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen was postponed due to recent fighting. In May 2008 Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.
In an August 2009 interview, Blair said that he would like to see Hamas and Hezbollah included in peace talks but under the right conditions, that religious leaders should be more involved in the peace process, and that resolving the conflict could be easier than it was in Northern Ireland.
In a speech given in Israel on August 24, 2010, Blair sharply criticised the campaign of "delegitimization" being carried out by enemies of Israel and proponents of the Palestinians, which refuses to grant Israel its legitimate right to its own point of view and self-defense. "Don't apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country," he said. He characterized such double standards and prejudice as being an "affront to humanity" which "it is a democratic duty to counter."
In July 2016, the Quartet reported:
The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development, including the recent high rate of demolitions, is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state. In fact, the transfer of greater powers and responsibilities to Palestinian civil authority...has effectively been stopped.
It was within this context that the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016 in another bid to address the settlement question. The report was significantly altered to appease Israel and as well as urging Israel to stop its settlement policy, urged Palestine to end incitement to violence.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly in September, 2018, Mahmoud Abbas called Donald Trump's policies towards Palestinians an “assault on international law”. He said the US is “too biased towards Israel” indicating that others could broker talks and that the US could participate as a member of the Middle East peace Quartet. Abbas reiterated this position at a UN Security Council meeting on February 11, 2020.
As of 16 September 2020, the UN has not been able to gather the consensus necessary for the Quartet or a group of countries linked to the Quartet to meet. On 25 September 2020, at the UN, Abbas called for an international conference early in 2021 to “launch a genuine peace process."
On 15 February 2021, the quartet envoys met virtually and agreed to meet on a regular basis to continue their engagement. On 23 March 2021, the Quartet discussed the reviving of "meaningful negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians who both need "to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve."
- Special envoy John N. Clarke
- European Union high representative Josep Borrell
- Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov
- United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland
- United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Criticism and shortcomings
Despite the significance officially attached to the Quartet's part in promoting the peace process, many of its statements are merely repetition of previous statements and no significant changes in policy by either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority have occurred resulting from a Quartet meeting.
The Quartet has been fiercely criticized for its ineffectiveness. When Tony Blair held the function of Quartet representative, in December 2012, Palestinian officials said that "Tony Blair shouldn't take it personally, but he should pack up his desk at the Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem and go home. They said his job, and the body he represents, are ′useless, useless, useless′".
The Center for Middle East Policy said in February 2012 that "The Quartet has little to show for its decade-long involvement in the peace process. ... Having spent most of the last three years in a state of near paralysis, and having failed to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking UN membership and recognition in September 2011, the Quartet has finally reached the limits of its utility. ... The current mechanism is too outdated, dysfunctional, and discredited to be reformed. Instead of undertaking another vain attempt to 'reactivate' the Quartet, the United States, the European Union, United Nations, and Russia should simply allow the existing mechanism to go quietly into the night,".
- May 2, 2002
- July 16, 2002a
- September 17, 2002
- December 20, 2002
- February 19, 2003
- June 22, 2003
- September 26, 2003
- December 11, 2003
- May 4, 2004
- July 7–8, 2004
- September 22, 2004
- March 1, 2005
- April 14, 2005
- May 9, 2005
- June 23, 2005
- September 20, 2005
- October 28, 2005
- December 5, 2005
- January 26, 2006
- March 30, 2006
- May 9, 2006
- June 17, 2006
- September 20, 2006
- November 15, 2006
- December 22, 2006
- February 2, 2007
- February 21, 2007
- March 21, 2007
- May 30, 2007
- June 27, 2007
- July 20, 2007
- September 23, 2007
- November 26, 2007
- December 18, 2007
- May 2, 2008
- June 24, 2008
- September 26, 2008
- November 9, 2008
- June 26, 2009
- September 24, 2009
- March 19, 2010
- May 11, 2010
- June 21, 2010
- August 20, 2010
- May 20, 2011
- July 11, 2011b
- August 16, 2011c
- September 23, 2011d
- October 9, 2011e
- October 26, 2011f
- December 14, 2011
- January 3, 2012
- March 12, 2012
- April 11, 2012
- July 30, 2013
- September 27, 2013
- January 26, 2015
- February 8, 2015
- May 27, 2015
- September 9, 2015
- September 30, 2015
- October 23, 2015
- December 16/17, 2015
- February 8/9, 2016
- March 28, 2016
- July 1, 2016g
- September 23, 2016
- July 13, 2017 
- July 22, 2017 
- September 28, 2017 
- September 26, 2018 
- 23 December 2020 & 15 February 2021 
- March 23, 2021 
- a Proclaimed the Road Map for the two-state solution.
- b Convened in order to find a formula for restarting bilateral negotiations; ended without any results.
- c Condemned settlement expansion in Ariel and East Jerusalem.
- d Issued a new schedule for resumption of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, which called for completing negotiations by end of 2012.
- e Called upon the parties to resume negotiations.
- f Meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem.
- g A report offered recommendations on the way forward, urging Israel to stop its settlement policy and Palestine to end incitement to violence.
- Statement, Quartet Envoys., 11 June 2015.
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- Shahram Akbarzadeh; Kylie Baxter (June 13, 2018). Middle East Politics and International Relations. Taylor & Francis. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-1-351-67715-8.
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- ′Useless, useless, useless′: the Palestinian verdict on Tony Blair's job Archived November 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Matthew Kalman, The Independent, 16 December 2012
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- The official site gives statements up to 30 March 2016
- Office of the Quartet Representative
- US Mission to the UN archive of press releases pertaining to the Middle East
- UN News Focus: Middle East archive of Middle East Quartet statements
- Joint Statement by the Quartet, upon meeting in London, 1 March 2005
- Joint Statement by the Quartet, upon meeting in Moscow, 19 March 2010
- Middle East Quartet Statements U.S. State Department
- President Welcomes Quartet Principals to White House, press release from meeting of the Quartet Principals on 20 December 2002
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