Bring Hamas into peace process, says Blair

January 31st, 2009 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 31 (DPA) Former British prime minister and current international Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair has said in a newspaper interview published Saturday that the Palestinian militant movement Hamas must be brought into the peace process.Blair, in an interview with The Times, said that the previous policy pursued by the Quartet - the UN, US, Russia and the EU - of isolating Hamas and concentrating peace and reconciliation efforts on the West Bank “was never going to work and will never work”.

Hamas, with whom Israel fought a three-week war beginning Dec 27, 2008, has been isolated by the Quartet because it officially does not recognise Israel.

Hinting that the time was approaching when the international community must begin to talk to Hamas, Blair said that “my basic predisposition is that in a situation like this you talk to everybody”.

Blair had also said that the current strategy toward Hamas was not working following talks with new US Middle East envoy - and Blair’s former partner in the Northern Ireland peace process - George Mitchell, in Egypt last week.

“I have been saying for some time that what was needed was a completely different strategy,” he said.

“The trouble is that if you simply try to push Gaza to one side then eventually what happens is the situation becomes so serious that it erupts and you deliver into the hands of the mass the power to erupt at any point in time.”

However the former premier repeated the official Quartet position that there can be no talks with Hamas until the organisation officially recognises Israel.

Blair denies that in his capacity as Middle East envoy he has already met Hamas representatives.

“I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms,” he told the paper.

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