Clinton Says Tony Blair to Play Bigger Role in Mideast Peace Efforts

By Staff | February 11, 2010 | 9:42 PM EST

Palestinians throw bricks and cobblestones at Israeli Border Police jeeps during clashes in eastern Jerusalem on Monday, Feb. 8, 2010.(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Washington (AP) – Secretary of State Hillary 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.

A spokesman for Blair said the former prime minister would "deepen his partnership with Senator Mitchell" in support of the political negotiations, but provided no details. The spokesman also said that while the quartet had made "real progress" on the West Bank, a new strategy was needed for Gaza.

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.

Mideast Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair meets with Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday Jan. 25, 2009, shortly before the Likud leader began a second term as prime minister. (AP Photo)

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.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will play a bigger role in efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.