Tony Blair has made “the maximum progress conditions would allow” on assisting the Palestinian economy over the past eight years, his former Middle East envoy has said.
The former prime minister turned Middle East Quartet envoy is reportedly in discussions about a change in the role he has held since leaving Downing Street.
While a senior source in the US administration said the former Labour leader had been “a valued partner in trying to bring peace and we will continue to value his input and support”, senior diplomats told the Financial Times the move was “long overdue. He has been ineffective in this job. He has no credibility in this part of the world”.
But Lord Levy, who served as Labour’s chief fundraiser and as Blair’s Middle east envoy, told the Jewish News: “Under very difficult circumstances, Tony Blair has carried out his duties as Quartet envoy according to the brief that he had to work to.
“He has maintained good relationships with all sides during the most difficult of times and on the more specific brief he was given with regard to economic progress on the Palestinian side, he has made the maximum progress the conditions would allow.”
The Office of the Quartet representative works to support the Palestinians on economic development, good governance and improved movement as they seek to build the institutions and economy of a viable state.
The first Palestinian donors conference in 2007, chaired by Blair, raised a record-breaking $5bn while his office continues to lead on implementation of a strategic roadmap for investment in the territories. It also facilitated the opening of the Jalameh Crossing between the West Bank and Israel, enabling significant numbers of Arab Israelis to visit the PA and support the economic revitalisation of the northern West Bank. The Office also developed a tool for the Palestinian police that has aided coordination with Israel.
There is yet to be any formal statement from his official though an announcement could come later this week.
Sources close to Blair said there an ongoing debate over the “composition and role of the Quartet” – which is made up of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia. “In addition to that, Blair himself initiated a discussion around a more enhanced role, which is likely to be more regional, though he will continue to work on the Palestinian economy,” they added. “The discussions are ongoing. He continues in his role and will do whatever he can to help the peace process.”
Critics have attacked the lack of progress achieved in the region and last year three former British ambassadors backed a campaign calling for him to be sacked and accused him of trying to ”absolve himself” of responsibility for the crisis in Iraq.