The Middle East Peace Quartet previously led by Tony Blair this week grew to include three Arab states, as the group met at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday.
A day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew out to speak at the UN General Assembly, foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan joined counterparts from the U.S, the E.U, the U.N and Russia. The Secretary-General of the Arab League also attended.
The diplomats were brought together by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss ways to kick-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which ended in April last year.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and UN envoy Nikolai Mladenov are known to be keen to move forward.
Earlier this month, Mogherini sounded a note of optimism, saying the European Union had “revitalised the work of the Quartet” to “re-open prospective and political horizons to the talks”.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had earlier welcomed the inclusion of Arab countries, saying it would help revisit a 2002 peace plan called the Arab Peace Initiative, which was put forward by Arab states and referenced by John Kerry in the most recent round of talks.
This plan offers the prospect of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories.
As envoys met, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the assembly, having earlier submitted his latest application for statehood.
He declared: “We cannot continue to be bound by these agreements [with Israel].” It was Abbas’s most serious warning yet to Israel that he might walk away from engagement and dissolve the Palestinian Authority. He stopped short of accompanying his threat with a deadline. He had threatened to drop a “bombshell” in the speech – prompting speculation he would sever ties with Israel over its settlement expansion and other hardline policies.