In this issue:

Blair's Days as Big Player Seen as Coming to an End

Palestinian President Abbas on Global Tour for UN Membership

Russia Foils Syria Sanctions Resolution for Now

From Volume 38, Issue 39 of EIR Online, Published October 7, 2011
Southwest Asia News Digest

Blair's Days as Big Player Seen as Coming to an End

Sept. 29 (EIRNS)—Her Majesty's little poodle, Tony Blair, might be finding his days numbered as a big international player. Last week, Britain's Channel 4 had an exposé on how Blair mixes his roles as paid advisor to JPMorgan and as Middle East envoy overseeing aid to the Palestinians. The program revealed an overlap with JPMorgan, which pays Blair a $2 million retainer, and certain business contracts in the Palestinian territories.

Now the Independent reports that a few days ago, Blair was declared persona non grata at the Labour Party conference. In fact, when party leader Ed Milliband mentioned Blair's name, loud boos crescendoed throughout the hall.

Now the Palestinians want him removed as envoy for the Quartet on Middle East peace, charging that he is biased towards Israel.

Palestinian youth groups of the main political parties have already declared Blair persona non grata in the West Bank and would not meet him there, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official said, according to the Independent. "If, as expected, the youth wings make a formal declaration about Mr. Blair, it is likely to be adopted by senior politicians."

Citing diplomatic sources, the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper reported that the Quartet intended to appoint a new peace envoy to the Middle East following a Palestinian request for Blair's dismissal, according to the political blogger Guido Fawkes, who posted a translated excerpt on his website.

A PLO official would not confirm the report, but said there was discontent over his stance. "Does the Palestinian Authority trust Tony Blair? The answer is no. Does anyone in the Palestinian leadership support Tony Blair? The answer is no," the PLO official said. "He is closer to an Israeli diplomat than a neutral negotiator."

Palestinian President Abbas on Global Tour for UN Membership

Oct. 2 (EIRNS)—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will embark today on an international tour to build support for Palestine's application for full United Nations membership. The issue is formally being taken up by the UN Security Council. On Sept. 30, Abbas met in Ramallah with a group of Arab and other foreign diplomats, pressing the case for full statehood and UN membership.

The same day, the PLO Executive Council met and rejected the Quartet call for the resumption of negotiations with Israel with no preconditions. The PLO leadership agreed that there would be no new talks until Israel fully suspended settlement building, and accepted the 1967 borders—both measures that the Netanyahu government will never accept. The PLO was expected to formally deliver its answer to the Quartet within days.

Abbas will first travel to Strasbourg, to meet with European Union officials, before traveling to Honduras, Colombia, and Portugal—all currently members of the UN Security Council. The PA needs 9 of 15 Security Council votes to have the issue of UN membership referred to the General Assembly for approval. President Obama has said, repeatedly, that if the Palestinians get the 9 needed Security Council votes, the U.S. will veto the membership. The U.S., along with Tony Blair and the Israeli government, has heavily pressured the Security Council member countries to abstain or vote "no" on statehood. As of Oct. 1, the rotating presidency of the Security Council shifted from Lebanon to Nigeria.

In remarks delivered before his departure for Europe, Abbas said that reports that the U.S. Congress had frozen $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority would not deter him from pursuing the UN membership. According to Xinhua, talks between Fatah and Hamas over implementation of the unity agreement will resume in Egypt in mid-October or early November, and President Abbas will soon propose early elections for parliament and for the Presidency of a reunified Gaza and West Bank Palestinian government.

Russia Foils Syria Sanctions Resolution for Now

Sept. 30 (EIRNS)—Russia's UN Ambassador Valery Churkin made clear this week that Russia will not repeat the compromise it made on UN Security Council resolutions on Libya in the case of Syria. After days of behind-closed-doors negotiations over contending draft resolutions, Churkin made clear that Russia will not support any resolution even suggesting sanctions against Syria. A European resolution, drafted by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal, gave Syria 30 days to end the crackdown and free all political prisoners—or face sanctions, including a possible Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Russia rejected any text that included any form of sanctions, although a Russian draft did condemn the Syrian government crackdown, but placed equal blame on the armed insurgents. So far, the other BRIC countries—all currently seated on the Security Council—appear to be backing the Russian stance.

The U.S. Ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, was pelted by rocks today in Damascus, as he returned from a meeting with opposition leaders. Ford has been highly visible with the opposition since the outbreak of demonstrations and violence, and Syrian officials have soured on Ford's behavior, after initial positive expectations about his appointment.

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