LONDON – The United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union called Thursday for an immediate, comprehensive cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Representatives of the so-called Quartet, which has been working toward a new Mideast peace plan, also discussed an agreement calling for a democratic Palestinian state to be established alongside Israel, they said in a statement.
Meeting in London, the envoys reviewed the next steps toward the adoption and implementation of their "road map," which calls for a provisional Palestinian state to be established in 2003 and a permanent entity formed by 2005.
The Quartet also reiterated its call for the Palestinians to build "credible institutions to prepare for statehood" and described an announcement by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to create the post of a prime minister as "a significant step."
The Quartet met for several days in London this week on the sidelines of two other conferences on international aid to the Palestinians and Palestinian political reform.
Quartet envoys said they were concerned about "the continuing acts of violence and terror planned and directed against Israelis, and at Israeli military operations over the past few days in the West Bank and Gaza which led to Palestinian civilian fatalities."
It called "for an immediate, comprehensive cease-fire" and said: "All Palestinian individuals and groups must end all acts of terror against Israelis, in any location."
It urged the immediate convening of the Palestinian legislative and executive bodies and called on Israel to facilitate these meetings.
The Quartet also encouraged the Palestinians to "continue the process of preparing a constitution that would form the basis for a strong parliamentary democracy."
And it asked Israel to do more "to ease the dire humanitarian and socio-economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza, including facilitating freedom of movement and access, alleviating the daily burdens of life under occupation, and respecting the dignity of Palestinian civilians."
In London for the aid conference, Yossi Gal, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's deputy director general of economic affairs, said any reforms must include a "reference first and foremost to putting an end to" incitement against Israel.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the Quartet statement, saying the group's efforts are "a matter of vital interest to peace and security in the Middle East," U.N. deputy spokesman Hua Jiang said.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday that Israel wants more than 100 changes in the Quartet's road map, including a Palestinian concession on the right of refugees to return to their pre-state homes in Israel and a "new and different leadership" as a precondition to statehood.
Israel also wants stringent restrictions on any Palestinian state, Haaretz reported.
Reacting to the report, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian information minister, said: "This will not leave anything of the road map. And this will lead only to one conclusion: that the political vacuum will go on and this political vacuum will lead to more deterioration in the conditions on the ground."