Middle East Quartet seeks 'concrete steps' to revive peace talks

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The "Quartet" of Middle East peace mediators said on Wednesday it had decided to give new impetus to trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks with the help of key Arab states. Peace talks, envisaging a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, collapsed in April last year after nine months of largely fruitless discussions sponsored by the United States. Tensions have risen sharply in recent weeks as Arab states and Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of violations at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites. "We have decided to work together ... on concrete steps on the ground in the absence of the peace process in the Middle East and have decided to reutilize the Quartet's activities," European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after a Quartet meeting at the United Nations. "This crisis that has been there for decades, out of all the crises in front of us, is the one that is still possible to solve," she said. The Quartet - comprising the United States, United Nations, the European Union and Russia - has until now largely been ineffective, with most of the key players showing little desire to resume talks. Rather than formally expanding the Quartet's membership, the idea is to have more frequent top-level consultations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Arab League to ensure the region is better engaged at a time of tumultuous change. The Quartet also said in a statement it would "hear" other stakeholders. "The Quartet underscored that the status quo is not sustainable and stressed the importance of both sides' demonstrating, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and avoid a cycle of escalation," the statement said. France had been calling for the creation of an international "contact group" that would consist of U.N. Security Council members, Arab states and the EU with a view to reviving the peace process. It had wanted to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution setting the parameters and calendar for talks, but has abandoned that idea with little prospect of a consensus. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he welcomed "the enlargement" of the Quartet. (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)