Talk to Al Qaeda and Taliban, suggests Tony Blair’s adviser

March 15th, 2008 - 5:43 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 15 (IANS) The British government has described as “inconceivable” a suggestion by former premier Tony Blair’s senior-most aide that Western governments should consider talking to the Al Qaeda and Taliban terror groups. Jonathan Powell, who was Blair’s chief of staff from 1995 to 2007, said channels of communication should be opened in order to secure peace.

The former aide based his comments on his personal experience handling negotiations with terror groups in the province of Northern Ireland, which now has a devolved provincial assembly.

“There’s nothing to say to Al Qaeda and they’ve got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you’re going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk,” Powell told the pro-Labour Guardian newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

“It’s very difficult for democratic governments to do - talk to a terrorist movement that’s killing your people. If I was in government now I would want to have been talking to Hamas, I would be wanting to communicate with the Taliban and I would want to find a channel to Al Qaeda,” he added.

Powell, who was Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser throughout the premiership, is about to publish a book, “Great Hatred, Little Room”, about how Britain resolved the long-running Northern Ireland crisis.

In it he reveals that the British government opened a secret back channel with the pro-Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) way back in the 1970s and that it proved to be key factor in the peace deal struck in March 2007 between warring Protestants and Catholics.

However, a British foreign office spokesman dismissed Powell’s suggestion, saying the government will not talk to any group that promotes its aims through violence.

“It is inconceivable that Her Majesty’s government would ever seek to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with a terrorist organisation like Al Qaeda,” the spokesman said.

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