Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is going to play a bigger role in efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks by intensifying his partnership with special U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell.
In a written statement, Clinton said she had spoken to Blair on Thursday about developments in the region. As a result of that call, she said Blair would broaden his current role as representative of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers to "intensify his partnership" with Mitchell in support of the attempt to revive political negotiations.
Blair took his position as leader of the Quartet — comprising the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — in June 2007. Until now he has confined his activities to building support for the Palestinian Authority. He had not served as a mediator or negotiator.
Clinton's statement did not say how Blair would partner with Mitchell in the effort to revive peace talks. Clinton aides said they did not immediately have details. The failure thus far to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the bargaining table has been one of the major foreign policy disappointments of the first year of the Obama administration.
The prospect for bringing the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table, following a break-off in late 2008, is expected to be among the subjects Clinton discusses during a visit this weekend and next week to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke off mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including in east Jerusalem. Israel committed to a full settlement freeze under a 2003 peace plan but did not fully meet that obligation.
The Palestinians contend there is no point in negotiating while Israel expands the settlements.
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