MADRID (AFP) - Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has proposed Arab participation in the Middle East "Quartet" comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, in order to advance the peace process.
"The moment has come to open up (the Quartet) to the Arab world," Moratinos told an international meeting in Madrid to mark 15 years since the Madrid Conference which preceded the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Moratinos and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana both expressed the hope that concrete progress could be made in the coming six months to unblock the stalled peace process as Spain lobbies hard to host a new full-blown conference.
Solana said he saw the current situation as resembling a "train of peace negociations (which) has never left the station."
"It is impossible to continue" in the current vein, Solana added, as he and Moratinos noted, along with meeting chairman and former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, that the situation has worsened with the additional regional flashpoint of Iraq.
On Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon had annonced that a planned meeting of the Quartet due to take place in Paris later this month had been postponed because of a "scheduling conflict."
Instead, he expressed the hope that the forum could convene "as soon as possible."
And US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said just before leaving for a Middle East tour that her discussions would concentrate on Iran and Iraq rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since 2003, the Quartet has been backing a "roadmap" for peace which calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the plan has been stalled.