Tony Blair looks ahead

When outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was named envoy to the Middle East in 2007 — representing the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations — he knew what it meant: "huge intensity and work." Now three years later, after the break down of the most recent peace ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images

When outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was named envoy to the Middle East in 2007 -- representing the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations -- he knew what it meant: "huge intensity and work." Now three years later, after the break down of the most recent peace talks, the conflict seems as intractable as ever. In conversation with Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Dickinson, Blair discussed the most knotty problems in the region, from settlements to Iran to the movement to unilaterally recognize the state of Palestine.

Foreign Policy: I understand that you met with some Palestinian leaders yesterday evening; what are your thoughts on the direction the peace process has gone, particularly on the Obama administration's push on the settlements?

Tony Blair: We've hit an impasse here. The challenge is to get an effective negotiation going, [one] that is credible. And the question is how do you give credibility to that negotiation -- and the settlement freeze was one way of doing that. We can't proceed on that basis now, but we can look for other ways of giving credibility to the negotiation. The important thing is to get a negotiation underway, in a context in which both sides have the confidence that this is a real negotiation, with both parties actually wanting to narrow the differences and reach a deal. Obviously, it's a setback for the process, but it's not a setback that should mean that we give up on it -- on the contrary, we've got to redouble our efforts and find a way forward.

When outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was named envoy to the Middle East in 2007 — representing the "quartet" of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations — he knew what it meant: "huge intensity and work." Now three years later, after the break down of the most recent peace talks, the conflict seems as intractable as ever. In conversation with Foreign Policy‘s Elizabeth Dickinson, Blair discussed the most knotty problems in the region, from settlements to Iran to the movement to unilaterally recognize the state of Palestine.

Foreign Policy: I understand that you met with some Palestinian leaders yesterday evening; what are your thoughts on the direction the peace process has gone, particularly on the Obama administration’s push on the settlements?

Tony Blair: We’ve hit an impasse here. The challenge is to get an effective negotiation going, [one] that is credible. And the question is how do you give credibility to that negotiation — and the settlement freeze was one way of doing that. We can’t proceed on that basis now, but we can look for other ways of giving credibility to the negotiation. The important thing is to get a negotiation underway, in a context in which both sides have the confidence that this is a real negotiation, with both parties actually wanting to narrow the differences and reach a deal. Obviously, it’s a setback for the process, but it’s not a setback that should mean that we give up on it — on the contrary, we’ve got to redouble our efforts and find a way forward.

Read more.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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