United Nations, May 9 (Xinhua) Key international mediators began a series of crucial meetings here Tuesday to explore ways of reviving the stalled peace process in the Middle East and averting a looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The diplomatic quartet - the United Nations, the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States - kicked off their daylong high-level consultations with a meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The gathering, hosted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, brought together US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country currently holds the EU Council presidency.
The European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero Waldner is also among the participants.
Following the meeting with the regional ministers, the quartet principals are set to consult among themselves, and then hold a news conference late Tuesday.
The quartet are sponsors of the roadmap peace plan which aims to establish two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. The plan had been originally targeted for completion by the end of last year.
Diplomats said they were expected to discuss, among other things, how to bypass the Hamas-led Palestinian government and channel aid to the Palestinians, including thousands of unpaid government employees.