Quartet on the Middle East
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the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
The Quartet on the Middle East or Middle East Quartet, sometimes called the Diplomatic Quartet or Madrid Quartet or simply the Quartet, is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002, recalling Madrid Conference of 1991, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East. Tony Blair resigned as the Quartet's Special Envoy on 27 May 2015.
The initiative to establish the Quartet evolved following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000 and the futile cease-fire attempts that followed. On October 25, 2001, representatives of the EU, UN and the US and Russian governments met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and jointly expressed support for his policy of implementing cease-fire and security reforms in the Palestinian Authority. During the Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas in April 2002, the representatives of the same four entities met in Madrid and again called for implementation of cease-fire agreements brokered by the US government before. In the same meeting, they also agreed to transform their quadripartite cooperation into a permanent forum for follow-up of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank, was appointed Special Envoy for Israel's disengagement from Gaza in April 2005. He stepped down the following year because of restrictions in dealing with the Islamic militant group Hamas and the withholding of money from the Palestinian Authority, risking its collapse.
Tony Blair announced that he had accepted the position of the official envoy of the Quartet, the same day he resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as a Member of Parliament on 27 June 2007. The approval came after initial objections by Russia. The United Nations were overseeing the finances and security of his mission, before his resignation on 27 May 2015.
Peace efforts and actions
Tony Blair has periodically travelled to the Middle East following his appointment as Special Envoy. On a trip there in March 2008, he met with Israeli leaders to discuss recent violence. A planned meeting between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen was postponed due to recent fighting. In May 2008 Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.
In an August 2009 interview, Blair said he would like to see Hamas and Hezbollah included in peace talks but under the right conditions, that religious leaders should be more involved in the peace process, and that resolving the conflict could be easier than it was in Northern Ireland.
In a speech given in Israel on August 24, 2010, Blair sharply criticised the campaign of "delegitimization" being carried out by enemies of Israel and proponents of the Palestinians, which refuses to grant Israel its legitimate right to its own point of view and self-defense. "Don't apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country," he said. He characterized such double standards and prejudice as being an "affront to humanity" which "it is a democratic duty to counter."
- High Representative Federica Mogherini
- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
- United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry
- Special Envoy Tony Blair (Resigned)
- Secretary of State John Kerry
Criticism and shortcomings
Despite the significance officially attached to the Quartet's part in promoting the peace process, many of its statements are merely repetition of previous statements and no significant changes in policy by either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority have occurred resulting from a Quartet meeting.
The Quartet has been fiercely criticized for its ineffectiveness. When Tony Blair held the function of Quartet representative, in December 2012, Palestinian officials said that "Tony Blair shouldn't take it personally, but he should pack up his desk at the Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem and go home. They said his job, and the body he represents, are ′useless, useless, useless′".
The Center for Middle East Policy said in February 2012 that "The Quartet has little to show for its decade-long involvement in the peace process. ... Having spent most of the last three years in a state of near paralysis, and having failed to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking UN membership and recognition in September 2011, the Quartet has finally reached the limits of its utility. ... The current mechanism is too outdated, dysfunctional, and discredited to be reformed. Instead of undertaking another vain attempt to 'reactivate' the Quartet, the United States, the European Union, United Nations, and Russia should simply allow the existing mechanism to go quietly into the night,".
The Quartet's meetings have been held on the following dates:
- a Proclaimed the Road Map for the two-state solution.
- b Convened in order to find a formula for restarting bilateral negotiations; ended without any results.
- c Condemned settlement expansion in Ariel and East Jerusalem.
- d Issued a new schedule for resumption of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, which called for completing negotiations by end of 2012.
- e Called upon the parties to resume negotiations.
- f Meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem.
- Joint statement, October 25, 2001
- Letter dated 10 April 2002 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council
- "Secretary-General Welcoms James Wolfensohn's Appointment by Quartet" (Press release). United Nations. 14 April 2005.
- Stephen Farrell (3 May 2006). "West 'has to prevent collapse' of Palestinian Authority". The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- "Blair appointed Middle East envoy". BBC News. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- "Quartet at loggerheads over scope of authority for Mideast envoy". Haaretz. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report 5736. S/PV/5736 29 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- Welcome to the website of the Office of the Quartet
- Livni: Israel not expanding settlements, By HERB KEINON, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, AND TOVAH LAZAROFF, Jerusalem Post, 3/13/08.
- Israel may ease grip in Tony Blair deal to revive West Bank, The Times May 14, 2008
- "Terrasanta.net" (in Italian). Theholylandreview.net. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Tony Blair, "It is a democratic duty to counter delegitimisation of Israel," full text at http://www.antidef.org.au/tony-blair-on-delegitimization-of-israel/w1/i1012041/ and summarized by Herb Keinon in the “Jerusalem Post” of Aug. 25, 2010, "Delegitimization of Israel is affront to humanity," at http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=185860.
- Nathalie Tocci, The EU, the Middle East Quartet and (In)effective Multilateralism
- ′Useless, useless, useless′: the Palestinian verdict on Tony Blair's job. Matthew Kalman, The Independent, 16 December 2012
- Statement of Aug. 16, 2011
- Statement of September 23, 2011
- Statement by the High Representative, Catherine Ashton, following the Middle East Quartet Envoys' Meeting in Brussels
- Office of the Quartet Representative
- US Mission to the UN archive of press releases pertaining to the Middle East
- UN News Focus: Middle East archive of Middle East Quartet statements
- Joint Statement by the Quartet, upon meeting in London, 1 March 2005
- Joint Statement by the Quartet, upon meeting in Moscow, 19 March 2010
- Middle East Quartet Statements U.S. State Department
- President Welcomes Quartet Principals to White House, press release from meeting of the Quartet Principals on 20 December 2002
- "Tony Blair's UN Role May Conflict with New Job with JP Morgan Chase" by Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, January 10, 2008