Mideast Negotiators Meet in Jerusalem for First Time Since Hamas Took Gaza

International Mideast negotiators met in Jerusalem on Tuesday, searching for ways to revive peace talks in the wake of Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

The gathering of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace makers came a day after the Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders held a summit in a unified stance against Hamas.

Representatives of the Quartet — the U.S., EU, U.N and Russia — met for nearly three hours at the American Consulate in Jerusalem.

Heading into the meeting, U.N. spokesman said the envoys had "no set agenda" and would discuss "recent developments and the way forward." The talks were the first by the Quartet since Hamas took control of Gaza, a development that has complicated peace prospects. The Islamic militant Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Participants left without speaking to the press, and details on the talks weren't immediately available.

The Quartet representatives were expected to name outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a senior negotiator to the region, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition on anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Blair did not rule out the idea when asked in London Tuesday.

"I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential," Blair said. "As I have said on many occasions, I would do whatever I could to help such a resolution come about."

Monday's summit at an Egyptian resort on the Red Sea was meant to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Western-backed Fatah party was severely weakened when rival Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. The Hamas takeover has left the Palestinians with two governments — Abbas' new Cabinet based in the West Bank, and the Hamas rulers of Gaza, who are internationally isolated.

At the summit, the leaders committed to work for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have been stalled since 2001. The Quartet are the sponsors of the 2003 "road map," a peace plan that never got off the ground.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged Monday to release 250 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and "substantially" improve Palestinian movement in the West Bank by lifting some of the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks in the area. He said he would hold "frequent meetings" with Abbas' new government.

The Arab leaders hope the high-profile gathering can lead to a resumption of the long-stalled peace process, rally Palestinian support behind Abbas and isolate Hamas after the Islamic militant group's stunning victory in Gaza.