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US Secretary Of State Colin Powell Meets 'Quartet' Partners on Middle East  - 2004-09-22

Secretary of State Colin Powell joins partners from Russia, the European Union and the United Nations Wednesday at U.N. headquarters for a meeting of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace mediators. President Bush told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday that progress on the road map to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord remains possible.

The meeting, bringing together Mr. Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will be the first for the Quartet since a similar New York meeting in June.

The road map produced by the Quartet nearly two years ago,laid out a series of corresponding actions by Israel and the Palestinians leading to a two state solution to the Middle East dispute by the end of 2005

Neither side has kept its commitments and the plan is far behind schedule.

None-the-less, in his policy address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, President Bush insisted that even with the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard work can still achieve the promise of the road map.

To do so, the President said both Israel and the Arab states must live up to their roadmap obligations. "Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel," he said. "Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause."

Mr. Bush said a commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In implicit, yet pointed criticism of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he said peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption and maintain ties to terrorist groups, asserting that the long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better.

On the eve of the Quartet meeting, Secretary of State Powell had a private hotel meeting met with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

A U.S. spokesman said they followed up on issues raised the President's speech, and discussed the opportunity presented by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's planned disengagement from Gaza.

The Bush administration has said the Sharon plan, providing for a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, can be a catalyst for reviving the road map.

But it says uprooting four remote settlements in the West Bank as called for by the Israeli leader should be the beginning, and not the end, of withdrawals there.