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Quartet meeting fails to achieve progress

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The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators failed to announce any progress toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a lengthy meeting on Monday, saying there are still gaps between the two sides.
The group, which includes the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, ended a roughly two-hour and 15-minute dinner meeting in Washington without issuing a statement.
The Quartet wants to find a way to resume talks and to avert a diplomatic showdown expected at the United Nations in September, when the Palestinians may seek wider international recognition for a Palestinian state.
"There are still gaps that are impeding progress," said a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters after the meeting on condition of anonymity. "Realistically … more work needs to be done to close those gaps."
"There is a time and a place for public statements and there is a time and a place for private diplomacy," he added. "We need to do more work, privately, quietly, with the parties, in order to see if we can’t close these gaps."
The official declined to discuss the nature of the gaps and he said the Quartet perceives "an urgent need to appeal to the parties to overcome current obstacles and find a way to resume direct negotiations without delay or preconditions."
A senior Barack Obama administration official said that Quartet members all have voiced support for the position taken by Obama, who in May urged the two parties to base the borders of their countries on the 1967 borders with mutually-agreed swaps.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the dinner, which was attended by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former British prime minister Tony Blair, a Quartet envoy.
Referring to the Palestinian recognition bid, a top US official said it was unclear from their public statements what the Palestinians wish to achieve in September, and noted they favored direct talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday prior to the meeting: "I’m willing to sit down with the Palestinians as early as tomorrow morning to open direct negotiations but unfortunately they are refusing."
In a letter addressed to the Quartet family members of captive soldier Gilad Shalit claimed that without his release no progress can be made in "other issues standing between Israel and the Palestinians." It was also asserted that Shalit’s captivity for the purpose of bargaining and without rights is a war crime.

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