THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

25. Blair Meets Quartet

Blair shaking hands with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero

Can Blair with his limited mandate rope in the Hamas and bring in the much awaited peace in the Middle East ?

Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, has met with the Quartet of Middle East negotiators, his first meeting with his new bosses as the Quartet's special envoy.

Blair met Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, and Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's foreign minister and a former EU Middle East envoy, earlier on Thursday.

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, whose countries and organistations together make up the Quartet, will all attend the Lisbon talks.

At a press conference shortly before the Quartet meeting was due to be held, the US and EU again announced their refusal to deal with Hamas.

Both Rice and Luis Amado, the Portuguese foreign minister whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, rejected dealing with Hamas, even as critics questioned whether the stance could compromise Blair's work with the Palestinians.

Speaking for the EU, Amado said: "I see no conditions at the moment to engage [in] new relations with Hamas without a new position from them."

The meeting will also be the first high-level Quartet meeting since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, forcing out the Fatah faction led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, which is now concentrated in the West Bank.

The split in the Palestinian leadership has placed another obstacle in the way of a peace deal, but it has also prompted Israel and the West to seek ways to support Abbas, whose West Bank-based government is the only recognised Government by the Quartet.

While Blair is enthusiastic about his role in the peace negotiations, critics say his limited mandate to help the Palestinians develop institutions and the rule of law, along with his orders not to deal with Hamas, will make it difficult for him to achieve a breakthrough - AFP.