Obama win opens way for new Mideast push: Blair

Wed Nov 7, 2012 9:47am EST
 
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By Crispian Balmer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's election victory opens the way for renewed efforts to revive moribund peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Middle East envoy Tony Blair said on Wednesday.

Speaking hours after Obama won a second term in office, the former British prime minister told Reuters he did not believe the United States had lost interest in the decades-old conflict, adding that he hoped to see a fresh initiative soon.

"I think President Obama's re-election gives us the chance to go back into it with a renewed sense of momentum and a plan to move it forward. I think, expect, hope that this is what will happen," he said, speaking from his Jerusalem offices.

Blair represents the so-called "quartet" of Middle East peacemakers -- the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia -- and has visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories some 90 times since taking the job in 2007.

U.S.-brokered negotiations collapsed in 2010 over the issue of continued Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and there is a growing doubt in Palestinian circles about the prospect of ever being able to create a viable state.

Curbing Iran's nuclear program has since overshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there has been little apparent effort by Washington to re-engage in the long-running dispute.

Blair said he understood Palestinian frustration, but dismissed suggestions that, with more than 500,000 Israelis now living on land seized in the 1967 war, the two-state solution was dead.

"It is very fashionable at the moment to say the two-state solution is not going to work. Just examine the alternative for a moment. What does a one-state solution mean? It means you institutionalize conflict right at the heart of whatever that state might look like," he said.   Continued...

 
Middle East envoy Tony Blair stands after an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem November 7, 2012. President Barack Obama's election victory opens the way for renewed efforts to revive moribund peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Blair said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun