British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Photo: Reuters

Blair sees some encouraging signs from Hamas

British prime minister tells Al Jazeera that Hamas is sending ‘not unhelpful’ signals about peace process. Regarding Iran, Blair says world prefers dealing with issue without military action

Palestinian group Hamas is sending some “not unhelpful” signals about the Middle East peace process but should be clearer on where it stands, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview broadcast on Friday.


Asked by Al Jazeera television about hints by some members of Islamist group Hamas about a potential change of position, Blair drew a parallel with the Northern Ireland peace process, saying those talks had only been successful when rival parties had agreed on shared principles.


“Some of the signs coming out of Hamas are not unhelpful, but we need to know where they really are,” Blair said in the interview, which was recorded on Monday.


He did not specify which signs he was referring to.


A crippling Western aid embargo has been in place on the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power in March 2006. Western donors demand that the Hamas-led government recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.


The embargo remains in place even though the government now includes members of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.


Listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel, Hamas’s founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel but its leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Blair, who is due to step down at the end of June after a decade in power, said he recognized the legitimacy of Hamas’s election victory last year.


“The problem we have with Hamas is very, very simple. The only solution is a two-state solution - Israeli state, viable Palestinian state. The problem is how do we negotiate that with Hamas if they say that Israel hasn’t the right to exist?”


Asked if military action was foreseeable against Iran, which is locked in a confrontation with the West over its nuclear program, Blair said: “I don’t think anybody wants, or actually foresees, military action against Iran, but there is a problem.”


Iran denies Western charges that it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its program is aimed purely at generating electricity. Washington also accuses Iran of arming, funding and training Shiite militias in Iraq, a charge Iran denies.


“I’ve always made it clear that there is a partnership there for Iran provided there is a clear understanding of the basis of it, and that means adherence to international obligations and it means supporting the legitimate governments in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and not undermining them,” he said.


“People want a good relationship with Iran. No one wants military action against Iran, but it’s important we make sure we resolve those issues that are outstanding with the international community,” he said.


פרסום ראשון: 06.08.07, 22:59
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