Hamas needs to be part of peace process - Blair
Hamas should be part of the Middle East peace process, Tony Blair, envoy to the region of the international "quartet" of powers, said.world Updated: Feb 01, 2009 11:07 IST
Hamas should be part of the Middle East peace process, Tony Blair, envoy to the region of the international "quartet" of powers, said in comments published on Friday.
"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," Blair said in an interview with the Times newspaper, published on its website.
"If you do this in the wrong way it can destabilise the very people in Palestine who have been working all through for the moderate cause."
In Gaza, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said Blair's comments were proof that the West was acknowledging that Hamas could not be dismissed, although he added that the envoy's demands were unacceptable to the Islamist group.
"Blair's statement ... repeated the same obstacles set by the West: to reject the recognition of Palestinian democracy, to impose the siege, to provide cover for the Zionist enemy's crimes against our people and to refuse to deal with the legitimate government and parliament," Masri said.
He added that Hamas was a strong and popular political entity and that Blair's repeat of "the same old ideas" would solve nothing.
Hamas won a 2006 election but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sacked its government led by Ismail Haniyeh after a few months because it refused to honour agreements signed by the previous government, recognise Israel and renounce violence.
Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas's Fatah faction in 2007 which largely holds sway in the West Bank.
With a shaky ceasefire in place after the war in Gaza, efforts are under way to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The West supports the Fatah administration in the West Bank and says it will not talk to Hamas unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel's right to exist.
Former British Prime Minister Blair is the Middle East envoy for the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators -- the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union.
(Reporting by Matt Falloon, additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; editing by Elizabeth Piper)