Thursday, 19 September 2019 05:09 GMT

Blair quits as envoy of Mideast Quartet

(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Former British prime minister Tony Blair yesterday resigned as envoy of the Middle East Quartet diplomatic group after eight years in the job, his office said.

"Tony Blair has tendered his resignation in a letter to (UN Secretary General) Ban Ki-moon," a spokeswoman for Blair said.

Sources said Blair would officially step down next month.

The former prime minister will continue to work with "the US, the EU and others, without any formal role" to support efforts to bring about a two-state solution and will "remain active on the issues and in the region", a source said.

Reports emerged in March that he was set to leave due to unease in Washington and Europe over his poor relations with the Palestinian Authority, although those claims were dismissed as "incorrect" by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

A senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, was dismissive of Blair, saying his departure had been anticipated. She said he had had a minimal impact on Quartet diplomacy and shown "bias toward the Israeli side.

"He had no rules except to sometimes listen to what (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu had to say," Ashrawi said.

Blair was appointed to the unpaid position in 2007 by the informal body comprising the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, to lead efforts to support the Palestinian economy and institutions in preparation for eventual statehood.

Writing on his website in February after visiting the Gaza Strip still ravaged by the 50-day war last year with Israel, Blair said: "The present state of Gaza is a rebuke: to those of us in the international community who over the years have made so many promises unfulfilled; to those who have offered leadership and failed to provide it."

With the peace process stalled, Blair's role had been reduced to tasks such as mediating the easing of Israeli security restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and the removal of Israeli roadblocks in the occupied West Bank.

His resignation comes shortly after the fourth government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office.

The government - the most right-wing in Israel since the 1990s - has dimmed hopes of a revival of the moribund peace process.

A source close to Blair, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the former prime minister would "concentrate on strengthening relations between Israel and the wider Arab world", focusing more on regional diplomacy.

Blair quits as envoy of Mideast Quartet

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