London Asharq Al-Awsat- British Prime Minister Tony Blair underlined yesterday his support for the Palestinian Government formed by the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and said: “I support the elections mandate of Hamas.” But he reminded the latter of the importance of reviving the peace process in the Middle East and renouncing violence. He announced that “peace in the Middle East is an absolute priority for me and the international community” and that the present situation “is causing loss of confidence in the world.”
Speaking at his monthly press conference, Blair set out two fundamental principles for reaching a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by saying: “There is only one way for making progress and that is by having everybody accepting the fundamental principles for reaching peace and these are to support an independent viable Palestinian state with proper and known borders so that the state is indeed viable and by having everybody recognizing the State of Israel and the need to look after its security.” He added: “If everyone accepts these two principles, then I and US President George Bush have every desire to take this process forward in order to make progress. But this should be on the basis of these two principles.”
Blair went on to say, “We should be clear that the reason why the Palestinian elections were held as scheduled was because the international community insisted on holding them. I support entirely the mandate of Hamas. They won the elections fair and square and they are the new elected government.” He added however: “But if it (Hamas) wants to move this process forward — and we want this and are eager for this process — I do not know how I can approach the Israelis to ask them to return to the peaceful negotiations when one of the two sides says it wants to eliminate the other side. I cannot do that.” He stressed that “making progress in the peace process between Palestine and Israel is an absolute priority for me and the international community, and without it the problems will continue that lead to misery, not only for many Israelis and Palestinians but also lead to a loss of confidence and instability in the world.” He noted however that his government remains committed to the need “to announce the renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the roadmap principles.” He also recalled that his country is the “biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority giving it grants bilaterally and no one can accuse us of not helping. We will continue to give humanitarian aid in Palestine.”
On the Iranian nuclear dossier, the British prime minister said “it is important to send a very strong signal to Iran and a not a sign of weakness”. His remarks came few days before International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei presents his report on Iran to the UN Security Council and as Iran insists on pressing ahead with the uranium enrichment and its nuclear program. Blair added that it is Iran’s duty “to apply its international nuclear obligations that it is breaching.” He also referred to other faults of Iran, saying: “Some comments by the Iranian president (Ahmadinejad) are totally unjustifiable. Iran is supporting terrorism in the region, which is detrimental for the democratically elected governments.” He added: “To me, the question is what do we do about Iran. At this time, we should send a strong signal. Everyone here and in the United States knows that Iran is not Iraq.” He reiterated “Iran is not Iraq” twice and stressed that “no one is talking about a military invasion of Iran.”
Though seemingly bewildered by the stalled Middle East peace process, Blair pointed to the positive progress made by the Iraqi factions’ agreement to form the new Iraqi government, saying this agreement “is a progress that we welcome and this is a very important period” for the region.