Tony Blair
Photo: AFP

Tony Blair's key role in Mideast talks

Former British PM plays central but largely unheralded role in reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, perhaps helping to avert Palestinian push for full UN membership

Britain's Tony Blair is playing a central but largely unheralded role in trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and perhaps avert a Palestinian push for full UN membership later this month.


As described by Western diplomats, the former British prime minister's effort in part reflects a vacuum left by the United States following the May resignation of former Senator George Mitchell as its special envoy for Middle East peace.


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Blair's specific task is to try to win agreement among the so-called Quartet - the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States - on a statement that might lure both sides back into peace talks after a gap of nearly a year.


If he fails, and if the Palestinians seek full membership during the UN General Assembly session that begins on September 19 over Israeli and US objections, the result could be a diplomatic snafu that leaves the two sides even farther apart.


Diplomats and analysts describe Blair's challenge as Sisyphean and they question whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is genuinely interested in resuming peace negotiations for now.


Blair's diplomacy to craft a consensus statement appears to be accelerating. In the past week he quietly met Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Paris.


He plans to return to the region this weekend and is expected in the next few days to see Netanyahu again and to sit down with Palestinian officials.


Too late for a solution?

The Quartet's last high-level meeting on July 11 failed to yield agreement on a statement and diplomats cited four key disputes - the language on borders, referring to Israel as a Jewish state, the United Nations' role and settlements.


One diplomat said he viewed Blair's efforts "with sympathy and skepticism," saying that it would be very difficult to bridge the gaps within the Quartet and between the two sides.


"There is a vacuum. Ultimately, I don't think Tony Blair is going to fill it," said the diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's probably too late to pull out a diplomatic solution to September."




פרסום ראשון: 09.03.11, 11:17
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