06-05-2008, 01:40 PM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Blair fears 'harming' Gaza talks
Quote:Middle East envoy Tony Blair has said he will not visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip until he can be sure it will "help rather than harm" peace efforts.
Egypt has been trying to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel and Mr Blair said he wanted to see how talks went before "choosing a moment to help".
He denied his decision reflected a lack of "trust" in him as a peace envoy.
The former British prime minister was being grilled by a committee of MPs for the first time since leaving office.
His appointment as a Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet - the US, EU, UN and Russia - was welcomed by Israel and the Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, although many ordinary Palestinians viewed him as pro-Israeli.
The appointment drew sharp criticism from Hamas, the Islamist militants now in control of Gaza, who said he had not been honest or helpful while prime minister.
Mr Blair has always refused to talk to Hamas, although there have been reports of unofficial contact.
Asked if the "trust factor" had kept him away from Gaza, Mr Blair said: "It's more to do with the fact that in a situation that is immensely tense and sensitive at the moment, where these negotiations are going on, frankly it's better to wait and see how they go, before you create a situation which may make it more difficult for the people trying to do good down there not trying to do harm."
He said he spoke to civic leaders and aid agencies from Gaza "a lot of the time".
But he added: "It's a question of choosing a moment that helps rather than a moment that harms."
Mr Blair also told the international development committee, which is investigating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, of the need to keep pushing for peace in the Middle East.
"It would be a real problem, I think, if a new American president takes a couple of years to work their way into this.
"One thing I am absolutely sure is that this issue is even more important than I thought when I was prime minister of this country. It is fundamental to sorting out the region.
"It is fundamental to peace between the world of Islam and the world of the West and it is fundamental, obviously and most importantly, to decent future for Israelis and Palestinians."
He said there needed to be a "period of calm" in the Middle East before any progress could be made.
"We have to alter the current state of events fundamentally. What we need to do is to get a period of calm, to get a ceasefire in Gaza, progressively to start reopening the crossings, start to get proper humanitarian help through.
"And then build our way back out of this to a situation where the people of Gaza can be helped and secondly, and very importantly, the situation in Gaza does not disrupt other possibilities of progress."
Mr Blair said his view of the region had been transformed since he had left Downing Street - and he now recognised the importance of economic and living conditions on the ground.
But he also spoke of the importance of dialogue with all sides - a lesson he said he had learned from the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. - Che Guevara
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