Blair visits Mideast


Tony Blair met with Israeli leaders before going to Ramallah to meet the Palestinian Authority president.

Blair, who is in the region for the first time since his appointment as the Middle East peace envoy of the Quartet powers – the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union – met Tuesday with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Likud Party chief Benjamin Netanyahu before going to meet with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.

After his meetings in Jerusalem, Blair told reporters he came primarily to “listen, learn and reflect.” As for whether the recent change in the Palestinian Authority bodes well for achieving some sort of peaceful settlement with Israel, the former British prime minister said, “I think there is a sense of possibility, but whether that sense of possibility can be translated into something, that is something that needs to be worked at and thought about over time.”

After his meeting with Blair, Netanyahu said the two agreed that Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations represent the biggest threat facing the region. Netanyahu also said he suggested to Blair that the Palestinian Authority is too weak to confront Hamas and therefore the Israel Defense Forces should maintain their presence in the West Bank to ensure security there.

On Monday, Blair met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Cabinet minister Haim Ramon.

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