- Title: WEST BANK: Quartet envoy Blair meets Abbas and tours holy site in the West Bank
- Date: 6th September 2007
- Summary: (BN10) BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (SEPTEMBER 6, 2007) (REUTERS) BLAIR'S CONVOY ARRIVING AT BETHLEHEM'S MANGER SQUARE VARIOUS OF BLAIR SHAKING HANDS WITH OFFICIALS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS VARIOUS OF BLAIR ENTERING NATIVITY CHURCH, REVERED BY CHRISTIANS AS JESUS'S PLACE OF BIRTH BLAIR TOURING HOLY CHURCH BLAIR RECEIVING A MODEL OF THE CHURCH FROM BISHOP BLAIR LIGHTING A CANDLE CLERICS WALKING IN CHURCH, STATUE OF CRUCIFIED JESUS ON WALL BLAIR TALKING TO OFFICIAL OUTSIDE MANGER CHURCH
- Embargoed: 21st September 2007 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA5PKXRM4DNPFW2VLL54ORQD8KN
- Story Text: Tony Blair, envoy for the Quartet of Middle East negotiators, meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and tours the holy Nativity Church in Bethlehem during a visit to the region to help lay the groundwork for an upcoming U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference.
Tony Blair, the envoy of the Quartet of Mideast mediators, met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday (September 6).
Blair, the former British prime minister, is on a 10-day visit to the region to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
His plan is to pave the way for a U.S.-sponsored peace conference, scheduled for November in Washington.
After he met Abbas, Blair visited the holy Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, revered by Christians as Jesus's place of birth.
Officials said on Wednesday (September 5) that Blair is developing a plan that would spell out "practical" steps that Israeli, Palestinian and business leaders could gradually take to try to boost peace prospects.
Israel is expected to be asked to take steps including easing travel restrictions in the occupied West Bank, officials said.
Steps for the Palestinian side would focus initially on improving Abbas's hold on security in the West Bank, a key Israeli precondition for removing roadblocks and checkpoints that restrict travel there.
The Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, Russia, United Nations and the European Union - gave Blair a limited mandate mainly focused on economic development and building governing institutions in the occupied West Bank.
But Abbas's aides hope the former British prime minister will go further and use his influence to get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to enter negotiations for a Palestinian state ahead of the November conference.
In addition to bolstering Abbas's security forces, Israeli sources said the plan would seek to expand an amnesty programme for Palestinian militants.
Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip in June but Abbas's secular Fatah faction still holds sway in the West Bank.
Blair would help mobilise support for the Palestinians to build a government-run social safety-net programme to wean Palestinians off Hamas charities, officials said.
A Blair spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that any action plan was being developed.
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