Blair Steps Down as Quartet Mid-East Envoy; EU Urges Renewed Peace Process

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stepped down as the Quartet’s Middle East representative, reports Ynet. According to the paper, he sent UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon his letter of resignation Wednesday.

Blair took on his role in 2007, with the goal of helping develop the Palestinian economy and institutions. This was intended to lay the groundwork for a future Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Blair’s resignation is a reflection of the state of peace negotiations in the region.

According to the paper, a top Palestinian official remarked that he was “happy” Blair was leaving his post, as the former envoy was ineffective and, in his estimation, caved to Israeli pressure.

“I’m happy that Tony Blair is leaving. For the entire eight years, Tony Blair didn’t make any contribution to Palestine,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official. “He never proposed anything that the Israelis didn’t agree to, and the entire time he only represented himself. And he worked only to satisfy the Israelis and the Americans.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

Western diplomatic sources cited two reasons for Blair’s resignation. One was lost credibility in the region, and the other was accusations of a conflict between his role and his business interests in the region.

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In a statement, the four international powers which make up the Quartet — the US, EU, Russia and the UN — praised Blair’s “unwavering commitment” to peace and “lasting contributions” to improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They neglected, however, to mention the reasons for his resignation.

Blair’s resignation takes effect in June, though an official said he hopes to continue playing an “informal” role in promoting the Quartet’s vision of a two-state solution in the future.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Speaking also on Wednesday, Mogherini said the current situation was “not sustainable”.

“We see the situation on the ground as not sustainable and (it is) an illusion to think the status quo is an option,” Mogherini said at the opening of an annual meeting in Brussels of the donor coordination group for the Palestinians.

Mogherini’s remarks came after the Israeli Air Force responded to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. “As we have seen (in the) last hours on Gaza there is no status quo at all. If we don’t have positive steps, we will have negative steps.

“We also have the political interest and the moral duty to work together as much as possible to re-establish a political horizon, without which even concrete steps that make the life of the people more positive on the ground would not be enough,” the former Italian foreign minister said.

“Without any kind of political process, without any horizon, we cannot expect anything but more violence to come again,” she added.

Last week Mogherini visited the region to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leaders.

 

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