Former British PM Blair quits as Quartet’s Middle East envoy
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Tony Blair resigned Wednesday as the Quartet diplomatic group’s envoy, his office said, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he worked to end as troubled as ever.
There was some praise for the former British prime minister’s work over eight years as delegate of the Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
But events on the ground showed how far away is peace – although the goal of a two-state solution remains.
Israel carried out four air strikes on militants in the Gaza Strip, witnesses said. That came hours after a cross border rocket attack on Israel.
The situation on the ground is “not sustainable,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned.
The US State Department was among those thanking Blair, calling him a “valued partner” who has worked tirelessly to advance economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza.
But it acknowledged the Quartet’s goal of a two state solution has not been met.
“So until that’s achieved, you know, I don’t think any of us can say that we’ve succeeded,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.
Mogherini called on the two sides to resume peace talks.
The last ones fell apart in April 2014. And prospects for their renewal seem bleak with a lack of trust between the sides exacerbated by the formation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new hardline coalition.
Blair tendered his resignation in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, an official in Blair’s office told AFP.
Sources close to Blair said he would step down officially next month.
Blair was appointed to the unpaid Quartet position in 2007 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.”
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. But those claims were dismissed as “incorrect” by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
As Israel and the Quartet praised Blair, the British pressure group Stop the War Coalition, which led mass protests against the Iraq War while Blair was in power in Britain, welcomed the resignation.
It said Blair, who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, should never have held the Quartet position.