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Tony Blair resigns as Quartet diplomatic group's Middle East envoy

With Israeli-Palestinian relations at a low, Tony Blair has resigned his post as envoy to the Middle East. While the ex-UK premier received some praise, some Palestinians charged he was biased towards Israel.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair resigned Wednesday as the Quartet diplomatic group's Middle East envoy, his office said.

The Quartet diplomatic group - which consists of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia - was established in 2002 to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts .

Blair's departure comes as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has reached a nadir following the formation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new right-wing government, and after a

50 day war

in Gaza that left nearly 2,200 mainly civilian Palestinians dead, with 73 killed on the Israeli side.

The quartet appointed Blair to the post in 2007 with the goal of helping develop the Palestinian economy in Gaza and the West Bank and prepare the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The diplomatic quartet praised what it called Blair's "unwavering commitment" to peace and said the former prime minister made "lasting contributions" to improve the lives of Palestinians, but did not elaborate on why Blair stepped down.

Mixed reviews

The US State Department also thanked Blair for his service, calling him a "valued partner" and saying he had worked "tirelessly and passionately" for peace, but acknowledged that the goal of a two-state solution had not been attained.

Gaza Stadt Hamas Israel 50 Tage Krieg

A 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants left thousands of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis dead

"Until that's achieved, you know, I don't think any of us can say that we've succeeded," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

Netanyahu's office said in a statement that Blair "had made great efforts to advance stability in the region" and added that it hoped Blair "will be able to continue contributing from his experience on behalf of regional peace and stability."

A top Palestinian official however said he was "happy" to see Blair go, charging him with bias toward the Israeli side.

"I'm happy that Tony Blair is leaving. For the entire eight years, Tony Blair didn't make any contribution to Palestine," senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said.

"He never proposed anything that the Israelis didn't agree to, and the entire time he only represented himself. And he worked only to satisfy the Israelis and the Americans," Shaath added.

The Palestinians were discontented with Blair's economic focus, feeling the former prime minister should have concentrated instead on negotiating the reclamation of territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war for a Palestinian state.

Blair reportedly had his resignation accepted Wednesday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and will officially resign his duties next month.

bw/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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