A Middle East peace deal is possible “within the year,” but only if all sides agree to peaceful negotiations, international envoy Tony Blair says in comments to be aired Friday.
The former British premier said there was a “great sense of hope and expectation” in the region after US President Barack Obama’s recent speech on relations between the West and the Islamic world.
“If President Obama gets the right partner, on the Israeli side but also on the Palestinian side, his determination to do this I have no doubt about at all,” he told interviewer David Frost.
He said Obama has made the Middle East a clear priority. “I have no doubt at all of his sincerity or his determination,” he said on Frost Over The World, on Al Jazeera’s English-language channel.
“So if everyone would commit themselves to a peaceful political negotiation to a two-state solution, you could have this deal within the year. But people have got to be prepared to commit to it.”
Obama pledged a “new beginning” for Islam and America in a landmark speech to the world’s Muslims made in Cairo earlier this month, fueling hopes of diplomatic progress after his predecessor George W. Bush’s departure.
That was followed by a major speech by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu last weekend, in which he offered a conditional acceptance of a Palestinian state, in a break with his right-wing Likud party’s ideology.
“I think the Obama speech was really a huge event… I think this was a very big moment, a vital moment, for the region and for the wider world,” said Blair, adding: “I think there is a great sense of hope and expectation.”
But he added: “The important thing is to understand that President Obama doesn?t need cheerleaders, he needs partners. He needs people who are going to help him achieve what he wants.”
Blair said Netanyahu’s speech was a “step forward,” but acknowledged there was criticism.
“From the outside they’re going to be skeptical, some cynical, some worried: ‘Well what does this really mean?’ and ‘Are we going to be able to make progress on a basis that is acceptable to the Palestinian people?’,” he said.
“And that’s obviously still to be decided.
“So my view is, yes in that sense it is a step forward and now we’ve got to wait and see what actually happens.
– From Prophecy News Watch