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Mideast Quartet Discusses Blair Appointment as Mideast Envoy


The Quartet of Middle East negotiators have met in Jerusalem, to discuss how to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process, following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the just-concluded summit between Israel and its Arab neighbors in Egypt. VOA's Jim Teeple reports Quartet discussions also focused on the expected appointment of outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a new special envoy to the Middle East.

The Quartet of Middle East negotiators met for about three hours at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Media reports say at the top of the agenda was the expected appointment of outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a new special envoy to the Middle East.

The quartet is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

Quartet diplomats would not comment following their talks, but speaking in London, Mr. Blair said he is willing to take on the task.

"Anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential," he said. "As I have said on many occasions, I would do whatever I could to help such a resolution come about."

The Quartet meeting follows a summit in Egypt that brought the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Egypt together.

At the summit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would release 250 prisoners who belong to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.

He also pledged to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank by dismantling roadblocks and checkpoints.

The Palestinian territories split last week, following a military takeover of Gaza by Hamas militants. Mr. Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian unity government and declared a new emergency government based in the West Bank.

At the summit, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders pledged support for Mr. Abbas, but they also said that any peace deal in the region must include all of the Palestinian territories.

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