- Title: MIDEAST: Blair talks to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in his Middle East visit
- Date: 12th September 2006
- Summary: (BN06) JERUSALEM (SEPTEMBER 10, 2006) (REUTERS) BLAIR MEETING ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER TZIPI LIVNI CLOSE OF BLAIR CLOSE OF LIVNI BLAIR AND LIVNI SHAKING HANDS BLAIR AND LIVNI SEATED BLAIR MEETING ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER AMIR PERETZ, HANDSHAKE BLAIR AND PERETZ SEATED FOR MEETING
- Embargoed: 27th September 2006 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVACK7YASMA8VA0MTJ87ARDIBK30
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: British Prime Minister Tony Blair concluded a two-day visit to the Middle East on Sunday (September 10), aimed at encouraging the revival of a long-stalled peace negotiations.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in separate talks with Blair that they are willing to meet as soon as possible to resume the long-installed peace negotiations.
"I stand fully ready to meet the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert without prior conditions and we are ready to begin immediately the preparations for this meeting," Abbas told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah after his meeting with Blair.
The British Prime Minister said the international community should deal with a future Palestinian unity government if it breaks with policies of the boycotted Hamas-led administration.
"I believe that such a government, based on the Quartet requirements, does offer the possibility of re-engagement by the international community," Blair said.
Abbas said he would travel to Gaza later in the day to continue efforts to form a joint administration with Hamas, an Islamic militant group that defeated his Fatah party in a January election.
Olmert voiced a willingness on Saturday to hold talks with Abbas but has made clear there could be no progress towards peace unless the Palestinians met their obligations under an internationally-backed "road map" that calls for the dismantling of armed groups, such as the governing Hamas movement.
Blair who met Israeli and Palestinian leaders across the region raised hopes for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but at the same time met rejection and protest against his foreign policy.
The Quartet of Middle East peace brokers -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- have cut aid to the current Hamas-led government, demanding it recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past interim peace deals.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas accused Blair of "one-sided" policies that have punished the Palestinian people and their elected government.
"We in fact do not trust the British policy, because it had been based on a unilateral vision and it had given a blind eye to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people," Haniyeh said in Gaza.
Hamas, which is dedicated to Israel's destruction, reiterated its rejection of the Quartet's demands to change its policy towards Israel.
Meanwhile in Ramallah, dozens of protesters, inspired by Palestinians leaders, took to the streets, demanding Blair to leave Palestinian areas.
Last Thursday (September 7) hundreds of Palestinians including politicians and intellectuals published a letter, accusing Blair of excessive support for Israel.
"He is coming here in order to wash his hands, that are dripping with Lebanese blood, with Palestinian water," the group of Palestinians wrote in an ad placed in the al-Ayyam newspaper. It was signed by members of smaller political parties, university professors, activists from non-governmental organisations and hundreds of ordinary Palestinians.
The signatories did not include politicians from Abbas's Fatah group or the governing militant Hamas movement.
Earlier on Sunday Blair met Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Amir Peretz in Jerusalem. He later met with Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
On the sideline of his visit he also met the families of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted on June 25 by Gaza militants and Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser who were kidnapped on July 12 by Hizbollah guerillas, an incident which triggered a 34-day war in Lebanon.
"For me it is so important this global threat that we face that has come of this region really but been exported now around the world and I see a very direct link between extremism back in my own country and some of the extremism out is this region," Blair said in a televised interview to Israeli CH.10.
Blair is due to depart from Israel in the morning of Monday (September 11) and head to Beirut to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Signs of movement in Middle East peacemaking could give Blair a political boost as he grapples with feuding in Britain's ruling party and an unpopular war in Iraq that forced him to concede this week that he will leave office within a year.
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