Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair Visits Gaza
Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair visited Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday, just hours after terrorists launched another missile attack against Israeli civilians from the region.
The former British prime minister, who represents the United States, Russia, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (U.N.) was not expected to meet with members of the governing terrorist organization.
However, Blair's visit was coordinated with the group, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which said he was expected to meet with United Nations director of operations in the region, John Ging, as well as with local business owners.
Blair told reporters at a United Nations-run school in the town of Izbet Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza that he "wanted to come hear for myself first-hand from people in Gaza, whose lives have been so badly impacted by the recent conflict. These are the people who need to be the focus of all our efforts for peace and progress from now on," he said.
Blair's tour of the area comes one day before leaders of donor nations are to meet in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh to discuss aid to Gaza. U.S. Middle East envoy George C. Mitchell, who arrived last week, is also expected to be present along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will begin her three-day tour of the region by attending the conference.
Until now, the Quartet has refused to dialogue with Hamas, insisting that it first recognize the State of Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and uphold agreements negotiated by previous Palestinian Authority governments.
The international body froze funds to the PA after Hamas won legislative elections in a landslide victory in January 2006, due to the terrorist group's commitment to Israel's annihilation.
After Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007, leaving the rival Fatah faction in control of the remainder of the PA in Judea and Samaria from Ramallah, Western nations resumed aid to the PA, on condition Hamas remained isolated.