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From 10 Downing Street to West Asia?

Blair says he is prepared to help bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but he offered no details about his future role, reports Vijay Dutt.

world Updated: Jun 27, 2007 02:28 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times

West Asia mediators held talks on Tuesday that could clear the way for the appointment of Tony Blair as their envoy to try to revive peace prospects after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip.

Blair, who steps down as Britain's prime minister on Wednesday, said in London that he was prepared to help bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but he offered no details about his future role.

Diplomats close to the so-called Quartet powers — the US, the EU, Russia and the UN — said Blair was likely to be named to the top peacemaking position soon.

However, Hamas said Blair was not welcome because of his role in supporting US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington and its European and Arab allies have stepped up pressure on Israel to jumpstart talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah faction, following Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza nearly two weeks ago.

Representatives from the Quartet met at the US Consulate in Jerusalem, seeking to define the mandate for their new envoy. The meeting ended with no public announcements.

Washington has confirmed the Quartet was discussing the appointment of an envoy to help Abbas build up the institutions of a future Palestinian state and carry out political and economic reforms.

Some European diplomats have questioned Blair's ability to garner broad Palestinian and Arab public support because of his leading role in the Iraq war and his close relationship with US President George W Bush.

Many Arabs see the Bush administration as biased against the Palestinians. Blair, who steps down after 10 years in power, has frequently urged Bush to take a more assertive role in trying to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I think anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential and, as I have said on many occasions, I would do whatever I could to help such a resolution come about," Blair told reporters in London.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Jun 27, 2007 02:18 IST