White House Press Briefing on Blair & his new Middle East position

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    13th February, 2010

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a recent meeting with Tony Blair, shortly after which she made her announcement.

    [Above announcement referred to here]

    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.

    Video here

    [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.


    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.)

    And 22 years later, 10 years after Blair started to take control in 1997, this in May 2007, just before Tony Blair left office –

    The picture you never thought you'd see: Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness nearly topple over with laughter at a shared joke at Stormont today, 9th May 2007. The restoration of devolved power to the province, with Dr Paisley as First Minister and Mr McGuinness as his deputy, brought with it the hope for a lasting peace. It was also one of Tony Blair's last significant acts as Prime Minister.

    Paisley & McGuinness with something to chuckle about – at last. Thanks to Blair? I think so, as does Bertie Ahern amongst many others.

    Ian Paisley, centre, is flanked by Martin McGuinness (left) and Tony Blair (right) during his speech at Stormont, 9th May 2007.


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    6 Responses to “White House Press Briefing on Blair & his new Middle East position”

    1. Julie Says:

      Great post B.

      If there’s someone who can really make a difference in the Mid-East, it’s definitely Tony -nothing-is-impossible-Blair! 🙂

    2. Little Ole American Says:

      Mr. Crowley could have saved the questioner a lot of air time if he would have just answered the question honestly, instead of dancing around it.
      Mr. Crowley knows, Sec. Clinton knows, President Obama knows, and last but not least, President Bush KNEW that PM Blair was/is the best man for the job. He’s a proven negotiator, he’s a proven “peace maker”.
      He’s developed a good relationship with the Palestinian business owners and that is how you start building up the economy. The Palestinians will never be successful as long as they have to be sustained by “handouts” from other countries (from people like that Booth woman). In my opinion, Hamas does not want the Palestinians to be successful, economically. Hamas does not care if the Palestinians have jobs or put food on their tables. They have a different agenda; only to destroy Israel and they will sacrifice their own people to achieve it. THAT is what Mitchell and Blair are up against. Blair is trying to “build up” the Palestinians, while Hamas and other terrorist groups try to tear it down.
      What a dangerous balance beam to have to try to walk on.
      I see George Mitchell as an apprentice to the tutor (PM Blair). That may be a bit harsh, but TB knows the “ins and outs” of the workings in the Middle East and his experience is invaluable.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        A fair amount of umming and ahing in Mr Crowley’s answer, I thought, Little Ole American, especially when you watch the video here.

        I suppose they don’t like to admit that they have now fallen back on Tony Blair. He is NOT American after all, and America needs to be seen to do the winning of the peace, whether Democrat or Republican. Apart from that Obama is more or less agreeing to Bush’s policy now, since GWB was the one who first pushed for Blair to do the Quartet job. What was not asked is whether Tony Blair is working ONLY for the USA’s quarter of the Quartet or for ALL of it.

        And meanwhile the British press is curiously silent on the whole business. If they were balanced in ANY way they’d be pleased about this, or at least looking at it as part of a new strategy. I have a post in draft on this strange silence.

    3. Middle East peace? They’re ALL on Blair’s page now, except the British press « Tony Blair Says:

      […] to mention Iran, America and others rounded on Iran. Hillary Clinton had upped the anti. First by increasing Blair’s powers in the region, something barely noticed by our biased press. Then the US Secretary of State spoke of a change of […]

    4. The quiet Mid-East success for Tony Blair – the no song-and-dance man « Tony Blair Says:

      […] I referred to Tony Blair’s war and the quietness of reporting on his progress in February this year – Middle East peace – they’re all on Blair’s page now, except the British press, just as the USA seemingly upped his job-description. […]

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