Quartet envoy to Middle East Tony Blair.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair is not stepping away from the Mideast peace process, though there are discussions about what exactly his role will be, a source close to Blair said on Monday.
The source's comments came following a report in the Financial Times on Sunday saying that Blair, who has been the Quartet's envoy for the last eight years, is preparing to step back from that role.
According to sources close to Blair, he initiated discussions that have been taking place for some time both with the Americans and the Europeans about the role of the Quartet, as well as his role. In recent weeks there has been some talks about expanding the Quartet, which includes the US, EU, UN and Russia – to also include some Arab countries as well.
According to the sources, the discussion are revolving around ways to enhance Blair's role – which has focused on economic development of the Palestinian Authority – and giving it a regional focus, in addition to dealing with the Palestinian economy.
The discussions regarding Blair's future role is coming amid a changing of the guard both in Brussels and Washington regarding point-men on the Middle East.
In Brussels on Monday EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini proposed an Italian diplomat as the bloc's special representative to the Middle East.
"Federica Mogherini proposed as EU representative for the Middle East Mr. Gentilini, who is a very valiant Italian diplomat," Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters.
Gentilini served in the past as the EU's special envoy in Kosovo, but has no Middle East background.The Jerusalem Post
reported in February that Mogherini was expected to name a new EU special envoy, as a sign of what is expected to be increased European involvement in the diplomatic process after the elections. The last envoy, Andreas Reinicke, left his position at the end of December 2013.
Paolo said the new EU envoy "has nothing to do with the role of Tony Blair. We did not discuss that."
And in Washington as well, the White House last week announced the appointment of Robert Malley to replace Philip Gordon as head of the National Security Council's Middle East desk.
Malley's appointment drew criticism in some pro-Israel circles in the US for having met as the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group with Hamas officials, and for writing in 2001 that the conventional wisdom that the Palestinians were responsible for the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David talks was inaccurate.Reuters contributed to this report
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