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PLO: 'Blair Unwelcome'

The PLO has said Quartet spokesman Tony Blair has become persona non grata in PA enclaves and is "Netanyahu's mouthpiece."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/10/2011, 9:53 PM

Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Quartet Envoy Tony Blair
Flash 90

The PLO reiterated Monday that Quartet for Middle East Peace spokesman Tony Blair was "unwelcome" in enclaves it administers via the Palestinian Authority.

“Blair is unwelcome because he violated his mission as neutral envoy of an international committee that aims at achieving just peace in the region,” a PLO statement read.

The Quartet appointed Blair, Britain’s former prime minister, as its envoy in 2007. Since then he has focused his energies on "easing the occupation" and echoed numerous sentiments held by officials in Ramallah, leading many Israelis to conclude he is biased in the PAs favor.

Nonetheless, PLO’s officials maintain Blair “has become a spokesman for Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, and this was clear when he tried to form the Quartet’s last statement which adopted the Israeli demands at the expense of the Palestinian just and legitimate ones.”

PLO officials have been near-histrionic over the Quartet's demand the PA return to the negotiating table without preconditions with the aim of reaching a final status agreement by December 2012, and have called for Blair's ouster as a result.

The Quartet, which includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, said it wanted to see comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and substantial progress within six months.

The Quartet’s statement came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a formal application to the UN Security Council for the unilateral recognition of a PA state based on pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital outside the bilateral Oslo framework. 

Israel and the United States opposed the statehood proposal, saying a meaningful resolution to the crisis could only be reached with the consent of the two parties. 

Israeli officials maintain Abbas bid excludes Israel from discussions of its own future and prejudices any future talks in favor of Ramallah's maximalist demands, which are seen in Jerusalem as a death-sentence for the Jewish state.

Riad Al-Malki, the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister, said at the the Quartet’s proposal “isn’t sufficient because it does not call for a settlement freeze and an Israeli forces withdrawal to the 1967 lines.”

On Sunday, the Quartet met in Burssels and resolved to invite diplomats from Jerusalem and Ramallah to the city to discuss a resumption of negotiations. Israel has already agreed to the Quartet's stated basis for resuming talks.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of PLO’s Executive Committee, told the Voice of Palestine Radio the Quartet’s call “is an attempt to get out of the crisis the negotiations has been in for a year.”

“The Palestinians would rebuff going ahead on the previous peace talks track and repeat the same experience of failure amid the current diplomatic activities, mainly the Palestinian bid to the UN Security Council for a statehood,” Ashrawi said.

Ramallah demands Israel halt construction in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem before resuming talks with some officials demanding Israel agree to pre-1967 lines as a basis for negotiations before talks can resume.

Jerusalem, however, says its previous 10-month building freeze aimed at bringing PA officials back to the table was rebuffed and only met with previous preconditions.

If officials in Ramallah are serious, they say, negotiations can resume without precondition with reservations being discussed at the negotiating table.

Sources: Arab Times, Gulf News, Maan