Rice boosts Blair as Quartet envoy

Condoleezza Rice voiced optimism over Tony Blair’s prospects as the new Israeli-Palestinian troubleshooter.

The U.S. secretary of state said Thursday that Blair, who was appointed envoy to the Quartet of powers mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after he stepped down as British prime minister last month, is the right man for a tough job.

“This is a very skilled, respected, historic figure in many ways in the world who is absolutely dedicated to democracy, to building a better Middle East,” Rice told reporters en route to a Quartet conference in Lisbon, the first Blair would be attending as special envoy.

Blair’s primary role as special representative of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia in the region is to bring stability to the Palestinian Authority after the schism caused by Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip.

“There is a very good sense that his dedication now to helping the Palestinians build the institutions of statehood, to move forward on economic development and to press forward on helping to create a strong Palestinian partner is very well timed as we try to move forward toward the establishment of a state,” Rice said.

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