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The Quartet, which is an alliance between The United States, Russia, The European Union, and the United Nations, was formed after the Madrid Conference on the Middle East in 2002. The Quartet was created to oversee the implementation of the Road Map for Peace and their overarching goal was to achieve peace in the Middle East.

As mentioned above, the primary task of the Quartet involves executing the Road Map, which was created on April 30, 2003. The Road Map is a document outlining the steps Israel and the Palestinian Authority must undertake in order to reach a comprehensive and lasting peace settlement. The Road Map outlines a two-state solution for peace that can be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism. It is a performance-based plan that relies upon effective leadership.

The Quartet's avowed interests are directed towards bringing an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and laying the foundation for the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security, as a step towards a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East, consistent with the Road Map and UN Security Council resolutions.

The Quartet has articulated a commitment to help Israelis and Palestinians make progress toward the two-state solution which seems so deeply in both their interests. They encourage the two parties to continue on the path of direct dialogue and negotiation and they believe that no party should undertake unilateral actions that could prejudge the resolution of final status issues. Quartet members agree on the need to ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, including contiguous territory in the West Bank. A state of scattered territories will not work.

The Road Map is fairly ambitious and contains flaws. There have been many complications that have prevented significant progress towards The Quartet's goal of ending the conflict by 2005, and its call for an end to Israeli and Palestinian terrorist activities.

One of the most obvious problems is its "phased approach." This leaves the plan vulnerable to constant derailment by acts of violence and also delays discussion of the most important issues.

There are several reasons to explain the deadlock related to implementation of the Road Map plan.

First, there has been a lack of political will on the part of the U.S. to engage in the conflict and revisit the Road Map.

Furthermore, weak Palestinian leadership was torn by intra-Palestinian confrontations between Hamas and Fatah.

Another tension within the quartet members pertains to relationships with Hamas. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana insisted during a 2007 visit to the Middle East that no EU members should would have contact with radical Islamist movement Hamas, however, Quartet member Russia maintains contact with the organization.

For these reasons and more, the Road Map is arguably less attainable now than it was at the foursome's formation. The Quartet experienced a revival in 2007, though, as the members convened about a dozen times, and sponsored the Annapolis Conference on the Middle East in November 2007. Time will tell if the Quartet nations can successfully push towards a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A note on Special Envoy Tony Blair...

Toni Blair replaced James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president, as The Quartet's Special Envoy to the Middle East. Wolfensohn resigned in April 2006 after little came of his efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together once the situation escalated in 2005 in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

While many recognize the potential that comes with a man of Blair's stature in the position of Special Envoy, there are certain bodies that do not support him. Russia's feeling was made clear when it demanded last minute changes to the decision.

While Mr. Blair does not have an explicit role as mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, he is still expected to have a major role in managing the process of negotiation between the two countries.

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