EU’s New Envoy Newcomer to Mideast

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Union Commission. (DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Union Commission. (DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
The Quartet’s Mideast envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair.(BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
The Quartet’s Mideast envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair.(BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union was set to appoint a new envoy to the Middle East on Monday, an experienced diplomat, though none of whose experience is in the Mideast.

Sources in Yerushalayim said that Fernando Gentilini, the EU’s special representative in Kosovo, has no background in Middle East affairs so it is impossible to know what to expect from his appointment, The Times of Israel said.

The Italian diplomat will succeed the German-born Andreas Reinicke, who served in that capacity between February 2012 and June 2013.

Gentilini’s appointment was to be announced by the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair might also be departing that post.

Following a report in the Financial Times on Sunday that Blair will soon wind up his eight-year stint as the Quartet’s envoy, a source close to Blair said on Monday that he will continue to have a role in regional diplomacy, though discussions are taking place regarding what it will be, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The two job changes are unrelated, according to Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who told reporters that the new EU envoy “has nothing to do with the role of Tony Blair. We did not discuss that.”

There were shifts in Washington too. The White House last week announced the appointment of Robert Malley to replace Philip Gordon as head of the National Security Council’s Middle East desk.

Malley’s appointment drew criticism in some pro-Israel circles for having met as the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group with Hamas officials, and for writing in 2001 that the conventional wisdom that the Palestinians were responsible for the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David talks was inaccurate.