Less than 24 hours after the Middle East Quartet issued a statement calling for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the new Egyptian government, speaking on behalf of the nonaligned movement, doused it with cold water.
Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt's foreign minister, said in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that "we have witnessed yesterday another failure by the Quartet to come up with a balanced vision to achieve the goal that we all know and approve of yet differ on how to realize it."
It remained unclear whether the Egyptian statement represented the start of a major move by Palestine supporters to undercut the peace talks, or was simply pre-negotiation posturing designed to bolster the Palestinians' quest for a better deal.
But the Quartet statement's failure to include a clear framework -- or parameters -- for talks, and the absence of a call for an end to settlements has infuriated key powers, including Russia, which is a member of the Quartet, and France, which is represented by the European Union envoy, Catherine Ashton. Some diplomats said that Russia had at one point during the talks threatened to pull out of the discussions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy meanwhile was said to be furious that Ashton had refused to fully brief the French in the midst of the high-pressure talks and that she had failed to add stronger reference to the parameters to the statement. Last week, he pre-empted Ashton by presenting her proposal as his own. But after the deal was struck, France's foreign minister issued a statement saying they were pleased with the direction the Quartet was pursuing.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.