Comment at end
13th February, 2010
Also see Tony Blair Office website
QUESTION: ” Did this come about because you said to yourself we’ve been unable so far to get the two sides to resume negotiations, maybe Tony Blair can do something or somebody else can do something?”
MR. CROWLEY: “No. But we are looking at how we can through – pull – put every thread into a tapestry that is able to support and advance Middle East peace. And success will involve advancing on the political front, advancing on the economic front, advancing on the social front.”
An interesting Daily Press Briefing Q&A session from Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley at the White House website on the reason(s) for Tony Blair’s promotion in his Middle East role.
[Aside: I love how the Americans, with their traditional, determined and polite respect for high post-holders (unlike here in Britain, where we revel in diminishing them) refer to him as “Prime Minister Blair”. ]
Daily Press Briefing,Feb. 12, 2010
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing by Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley. Full Text here
RELEVANT text on Tony Blair here (3:55-8:40):
QUESTION(Questioner 1): Can I ask you about the statement you put out yesterday on Tony Blair? You said that he would be intensifying his partnership, I think was the term you used, with George Mitchell, to deal with the negotiations question, the political negotiations. What does that mean in concrete terms? What will he be doing that he wasn’t – hadn’t been doing? And does it mean George Mitchell will be doing something different?
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, not at all. But we – for example, we continue to work jointly on how to increase the capacity of Palestinian institutions, how we can continue to help the – with the growth and expansion of the Palestinian economy, recognizing that these have the ability to support the efforts on getting the parties into a negotiation. So it is making sure that we are working as closely together as possible so that on the economic front, on the political front, and on the negotiation front, we’re doing everything we can to advance Palestinian interests as a way of encouraging them to continue to prepare for the point in the future which, following a negotiation, we would hope that there would be a viable Palestinian state.
QUESTION(Questioner 2): Well, weren’t you doing all of that before?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) And I don’t – so why the necessity to reinforce former Prime Minister Blair’s role? He’s a hardworking guy, he was working all of this stuff.
MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) But I just don’t get it.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have had periodic discussions with Prime Minister Blair and the Quartet. And I think we are looking for a variety of ways in which we can encourage the region to move forward. And we certainly think that on the political front and the economic front, there’s an opportunity here to be able to help provide the kind of support to Palestinian leadership that it needs.
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) So what – just on the political front, I mean, what’s he – because his focus, of course, has been the economic front.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes, it has. What —
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) What is he doing on the political front now then – that he wasn’t doing before? And how does that not potentially duplicate Senator Mitchell’s —
MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. But you have to deal with political leaders to make sure that you have the – you’re building the economy. You want to see ways in which the region not – can continue to invest in a Palestinian state, in the West Bank in particular, where there has been encouraging economic news. So I would just think it is a true complement to what George Mitchell is doing, and we are going to intensify our cooperation.
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) Does Senator Mitchell have any plans to cease in his role or to reduce his role?
MR. CROWLEY: What we were describing yesterday in terms of our cooperation, it is about – it’s not about a plus-or-minus equation. It’s about – George Mitchell is working hard on getting the parties to negotiation. Tony Blair is working on – for his part, in terms of trying to build the institutions that will be necessary for a viable Palestinian state. The United States has a role to play in that as well. So I wouldn’t say that the advance of what Tony Blair is doing comes at the expense of George Mitchell, not at all.
QUESTION: (Questioner 2) And Senator Mitchell is not going to give up his role? I mean, that’s not —
MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. No.
QUESTION: Okay, good.
QUESTION: (Questioner 1) One more. Did this come about because you said to yourself we’ve been unable so far to get the two sides to resume negotiations, maybe Tony Blair can do something or somebody else can do something?
MR. CROWLEY: No. But we are looking at how we can through – pull – put every thread into a tapestry that is able to support and advance Middle East peace. And success will involve advancing on the political front, advancing on the economic front, advancing on the social front. All of these elements will be important so that people ultimately have the confidence to take the important steps and make the difficult decisions that are necessary to achieve what we all want, which is comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
The only forward movements that have been seen in the Israel/Palestinian region in recent years have been made at the instigation and through the efforts of Tony Blair. The rest is moribund.
NO-ONE ELSE’S EFFORTS HAVE MADE ONE IOTA OF A DIFFERENCE
Not President Bush’s efforts before he left office, nor President Obama’s since he came to office. I believe this is recognised by the Americans and particularly by George Mitchell. They clearly now want Blair to lead the POLITICAL negotiations, but of course not in so many words.
Picture above of Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair is from The Irish Times
George Mitchell knows, possibly more than any other American, how Blair’s input into the Northern Ireland conflict made all the difference. Who else but Blair could get Ian Paisley, the ‘NEVER, NEVER, NEVER’ man of Northern Ireland to end up best buddies with such as Martin McGuinness?
Rev. Ian Paisley says “Never!”
(Paisley rejecting the Anglo-Irish Agreement signed by Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald in 1985.)
- My previous post – Clinton on Blair’s new role in the Middle East
- John Rentoul: Oh look, a fact on the ground
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