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Blair may quit Quartet role after 8 year stalemate

'Deep unease' with Blair over his 'poor relations' with Palestinians, perceived closeness to Israel and 'sprawling business interests'
Blair delivers a statement at the Israeli presidential compound in Jerusalem, on 15 July, 2014 (AFP)

Tony Blair is poised to step back from his role with the diplomatic Middle East Quartet, the Financial Times reported Sunday, citing several people familiar with the situation.

The former British prime minister has discussed his position with US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the business daily said, adding that news on his amended role could come later this week.

"His move comes amid deep unease in parts of Washington and Brussels over his poor relations with senior Palestinian Authority figures and sprawling business interests" including with regional governments, the FT said.

Blair was appointed to the unpaid position in 2007 by the informal Quartet comprising UN, US, EU and Russia, to lead efforts to support the Palestinian economy and institutions in preparation for eventual statehood.

He has no formal role in the peace negotiations but the lack of progress on that front has led critics to question what he has achieved in almost eight years, while his perceived closeness to Israel has also drawn frustration on the Palestinian side.

"Palestinians see a politician who has not spoken out for them, has not demanded an end to the blockade and to the occupation," Chris Doyle, the director of Council for Arab-British Understanding, wrote in a recent column in MEE.

"Palestinian leaders were furious that Blair lobbied against recognition of Palestine at the UN. At best, Blair has got a few checkpoints removed in the West Bank," Doyle added.

Blair has also come under fire in Britain, where he is still deeply unpopular for taking the country into the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and for his consultancy work with sometimes controversial governments around the world.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Tony Blair declined to comment on the FT report when contacted by AFP.

Last month, Blair was hired Serbia to work for Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who once served in the same government that was targeted by NATO air strikes advocated by the then British leader in 1999.

Neither Tony Blair Associates nor the Serbian government have disclosed the cost and source of funding of the consultancy deal, but a source in Belgrade said it was allegedly paid by the United Arab Emirates.

"The work of the delivery unit has no bearing on Tony Blair's role in the Middle East for the Palestinian economy," the TBA spokesperson said last month.

One week prior the FT report, Doyle had reiterated that Blair is not fit to the Quartet's envoy, suggesting that he should no long hold that post.

"Blair has nothing new to add. He is a status quo figure at a time when the status quo is a disaster. Let us find someone who puts peace before dollars."