Blair sees new US-backed peace 'framework' emerging
Date: 05 / 05 / 2009 Time: 19:13
Ramallah Ð Ma’an Ð International Envoy Tony Blair said on Tuesday that a new “framework” for Middle East peacemaking may emerge in the coming weeks as Israeli and Palestinian leaders visit Washington.
“We’re about to get a new framework. I can only speculate right now about what that framework will be. The reason I say people should be more hopeful is that this is a framework that is being worked on at the highest level of the American administration, in the rest of the international community,” said Blair, speaking at a briefing with Palestinian journalists in Ramallah.
The former UK Prime Minister said, “I think we’ll know better in a few weeks time where we’re coming out on this. But those are the three areas [the West Bank, Gaza, and the political process], I anticipate, will form the substance of what then I think will be an agreed way forward.”
US President Barack Obama invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s right-wing new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to renew formal peace negotiations. Abbas currently refuses to negotiate with Netanyahu until his government accepts the creation of a Palestinian state as the desired outcome of talks.
Blair for his part said he believes that Netanyahu will accept the two-state formula: “Obviously, the only game in town is the two-state solution,” he said, “I hope and believe the new Israeli government will commit to that. The outcome of their policy review I hope will result in a commitment to a two-state solution.”
As evidence for his optimism, Blair cited the Obama’s efforts to take up the Israeli-Palestinian issue early in his administration: “I believe the Obama administration is absolutely determined to get to the two state solution. I think they see this as urgent and a key priority for the whole administration. That is certainly what I’d say is the result of the talks I’ve had about it.”
In addition Blair said his office is developing “a set of proposals that would mean major change in the West Bank, and it’s important that that becomes a position not just of the quartet representative but of the international community, and that that is agreed and taken forward with Israel.”
As the envoy of the International Quartet (including the EU, UN, US, and Russia), Blair is charged with shoring up Palestinian institutions and convincing Israel to gradually role back its occupation of the West Bank. The task of pushing the political negotiations forward is reserved for the US.
Since his appointment as envoy in June 2007, Blair has faced criticism for failing to be tough on Israel on reducing checkpoints, the blockade of Gaza, and other movement restrictions….