By NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI | REUTERS ARABNEWS
GAZA: Palestinian officials are going public with long-whispered complaints that international Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is biased toward Israel.
Unofficial suggestions that Blair should now be replaced coincide with a Palestinian drive to secure membership of the United Nations, establishing statehood in the face of strong opposition from Israel and its main backer, the United States.
While there has been no official request to the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators to have Blair removed as their envoy, some Palestinian officials at the weekend told reporters they had had enough of what they perceive to be his pro-Israel bias.
Bassam Al-Salhe, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official who attends the PLO’s high-level meetings, described Blair on Sunday as “a junior employee of the Israeli government” rather than a neutral envoy of the foursome made up of the European Union, the United States, UN and Russia.
He spoke of a growing tendency in the Palestinian leadership to boycott Blair after he “lost his credibility.”
Israel said on Sunday it accepted a Quartet proposal for a resumption of peace talks within a month. The Palestinians reaffirmed there could be no negotiations until Israel halts all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
‘Like an Israeli diplomat’
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Palestinian presidential aide Nabil Shaath said Blair was now “of limited usefulness.”