Blair says he views Middle East conflict differently now

June 5th, 2008 - 9:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 5 (DPA) Former British prime minister Tony Blair admitted Thursday that his view of the Middle East conflict had been transformed since he took on the job of special envoy for the region almost a year ago. Blair, who was giving evidence on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza to the international development committee of the British parliament, said he now recognised the importance of the “situation on the ground” for conflict solution.

Blair was appointed special envoy of the so-called Middle East Quartet of the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia the day he stepped down as prime minister June 27 last year.

“We have to alter the current state of events fundamentally,” Blair told the committee.

“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,” said Blair.

His view of the situation had been transformed as he now recognised the vital importance of the situation on the ground to enabling constructive political dialogue, Blair said.

In an earlier television interview, he drew a parallel with efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, in which he played an active role.

“If we were able to resolve it the way we did in Northern Ireland it would make probably the biggest difference to peace in the Middle East,” he said, without elaborating.

Decades of conflict in Northern Ireland were ended, through international mediation, by the disarmament of paramilitary groups and the formation of a power-sharing government between Catholics and Protestants in the province.

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