Blair cancels first Gaza trip as Mid East envoy


London : Former British prime minister Tony Blair has cancelled what would have been his first trip to Gaza since becoming the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East a year ago, it was reported Tuesday.

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A spokeswoman for the former prime minister, Ruti Winterstein was cited saying that the visit was postponed because of “specific threats” against him, but did not give details.

In May, Israeli fighter airplanes were reported to have threatened to shoot down a private jet taking Blair to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to attend a major conference on private investment in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

His trip to Gaza, which is under siege by Israel, would have been his first since he was British prime minister back in 1998.

Giving evidence to the International Development Committee in London last month, Blair admitted that after nearly 12 month in his role as the Quartet’s envoy he had yet to visit Gaza and shied away from calls to include Hamas in peace talks.

He also refused to condemn the illegality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, insisting it is important to understand the Israeli position.

Reports suggested that Blair was expected to meet with traders and inspect a northern Gaza waste water project being built with international funds during his visit but would not be meeting any Hamas officials.

His focus since becoming the envoy of the US, EU, Russia and the UN has been mainly on economic issues, which he insists will bolster the chances of a peace deal this year.