UK Politics

Tony Blair's Middle East role could be 'reconfigured'

Tony Blair at an economic development conference in Egypt Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Blair has been working for the Quartet for nearly eight years

Tony Blair could get a new role in the Middle East amid reports that he is preparing to step back from his job as a peace envoy in the region.

The ex-prime minister has represented the Quartet - the US, EU, UN and Russia - since 2007 in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Financial Times said Mr Blair hoped to "reconfigure" the role but wanted to remain involved in the peace process.

The paper quoted US sources saying his current role was "no longer viable".

And it suggested the EU's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also wanted the Quartet to be revamped amid frustration about the lack of progress in reviving negotiations after they broke down last year.

The FT said that no decision had been made but that Mr Blair's future involvement in the Middle East might be clarified later this week.

One possibility, it suggested, was that he might take on a more regional role focused on liaising with countries such as Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where he is regarded as having the most influence.

A senior US official told the BBC there had been no moves to remove Mr Blair from his position as Middle East envoy.

"There is one thing I want to be absolutely clear about there has been no effort by the Quartet to push Tony out of his current role as Quartet representative. There is just no truth for that," the official said.

Analysis by Paul Adams, BBC world affairs correspondent

It was always unfair to blame Tony Blair for failing to bring peace to the Middle East. Quite simply, it was never his job.

As Middle East envoy for the Quartet, his remit was always much more narrow.

From the outset, his role was to promote economic development in the Palestinian territories: the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Two years ago, Mr Blair's office was given the task of devising a $4bn (£2.7bn) growth and investment plan, designed to accompany a new US-led push to forge a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But economic development and the peace process go hand in hand, with the former almost always hostage to the latter.

Read more from Paul

The official added: "As far as the United States is concerned Tony has been a very valued partner in efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and we will continue to value his support going forward."

They said it was a "natural time" to reflect on the way forward for Middle East peace and the future role of the Quartet "and obviously Tony has been a big part of that discussion".

Neither Mr Blair, who met US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday and visited Gaza last month, nor his office have commented on the story.

The former Labour leader's role in the region, which he took on after leaving office in 2007, has always been controversial given his pivotal role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Reports of possible changes to the Quartet's focus come ahead of elections in Israel later this week, in which the centre-left is expected to make ground.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is among those said to be pushing for a change

In recent times, Mr Blair has been responsible for overseeing a $4bn (£2.7bn) plan to stimulate growth and investment in the Palestinian territories announced in 2013.

Downing Street said Mr Blair had been doing "important work" since 2007.

"In terms of his own approach to how he thinks he may be best able to make a contribution, that is principally a matter for Tony Blair," a spokesman said. "The prime minister thinks he has been doing important work as the Quartet's representative."

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