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Palestinians Question Blair Role as UN Statehood Bid Stalls

Palestinian leaders are questioning the role of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as a peace negotiator, after their effort to win statehood at the United Nations was put on hold.

Blair, who has mediated between Israelis and Palestinians on behalf of the so-called Quartet, has taken “very aggressive positions against the Palestinians,” Palestinian lawmaker Bassam Salhi said in an interview today. “He has lost his credibility as a broker and mediator.”

Nabil Shaath, the chief Palestinian negotiator, last week told reporters that Blair “sounds like an Israeli diplomat sometimes,” according to the New York Times. Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said at a press conference in Ramallah today that he and colleagues are “looking into his actions and his role, and when the time comes we will issue our opinion.” He said Palestinians haven’t made an official request for Blair to be replaced.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented his case for recognition of Palestine as the UN’s 194th member state at the General Assembly on Sept. 23. It is due to be discussed by an admissions committee of the Security Council tomorrow, the start of a process that could take weeks. The U.S. has said it will veto any Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood.

Blair, representing the Quartet of the U.S., UN, European Union and Russia, has pushed a proposal for immediate resumption of peace talks leading to a final settlement within a year. It was initially backed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rejected by Abbas.

‘Encouraging Elements’

There are “encouraging elements” in the Quartet’s plan, Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told reporters in Ramallah today. Its success would depend on Israel making commitments including a freeze on settlement-building in occupied territories, he said.

Israel’s decision to end a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in October last year led to the collapse of talks that began the previous month. An Israeli Interior Ministry committee this week approved construction of 1,100 new homes in east Jerusalem, a territory captured by the Israeli army in the 1967 war and seen by Palestinians as the capital of their future state.

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