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Naming former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Middle East Quartet's special envoy was a poor choice
Naming former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Middle East Quartet's special envoy was a poor choice, a leading Russian expert said Friday. The Quartet, which includes Russia, the U.S., the EU and the UN, approved Blair as special envoy June 27. His duties in the new position will include the mobilization of international aid to Palestinians, the elaboration of a plan on economic development for the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and ensuring cooperation with other countries to achieve the Quartet's aims. "The appointment of Tony Blair as the Middle East Quartet's special envoy was the worst possible choice for the region," the vice president of the Geopolitical Problems Academy, Vladimir Anokhin, told a RIA Novosti news conference. "As an organizer of the war in Iraq, as an active supporter of American policy in the Middle East, as a representative of the aggressor side, he suddenly turns into a 'dove' - it is incomprehensible, especially to Arab states," the expert said. Anokhin said the international community might fail to understand whose interests Blair would represent. And he doubted the expediency of holding an international conference on the Middle East in New York in the fall, proposed by President George Bush, who has said that only countries and parties that reject violence and support all previous agreements would be invited to attend. "Bush wants to ameliorate his position, to enhance the status of the U.S. in that region. But statements that [Islamist group] Hamas will not be allowed to participate in the conference assume a split in the Arab movement," Anokhin said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Thursday the Quartet's next meeting would be held in September. In an interview with the Kuwait News Agency Thursday, Russia's foreign minister warned against isolating Hamas, and said the international community should respect the group as a parliamentary majority party. Discussing the latest developments in the Palestinian territories, which underwent a de facto split after Hamas gained control over Gaza in armed confrontations with the pro-presidential Fatah movement, Sergei Lavrov said: "The difficulties of the occupation are only exacerbated by the divide between Gaza and the West Bank. How and when this can be overcome is not yet clear." He said that Russia, while fully supporting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a legitimately elected leader, is also against isolating Hamas. "Whatever you think about Hamas, they are, in our opinion, an influential political entity, which has a majority in the parliament and enjoys strong support... in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. We think that boycotting Hamas or trying to exclude it from the political process would be a counterproductive move boding ill for the future," he said. He called for facilitating future dialogue between Hamas and Fatah, two rival groups that both resist Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and warned against deploying international troops in the Palestinian territories without the consent of both groups.
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