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An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could be clinched this year, Tony Blair said.

The former British prime minister turned Quartet peace envoy said Saturday that Israel and the Palestinians may well sign an accord by the end of 2008 — their stated goal — though progress in talks has been stymied by violence and distrust.

“I think it’s doable this year if people want to do it,” Blair told Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “You could get a peace deal. It’s not impossible to work out what the basic principles of the agreement are, and both sides want to reach an agreement.

“But what is necessary in order to get the politicians to the point where they can do the deal is to have sufficient confidence on the ground from people that the security situation for the Israelis can be improved and the occupation can be lifted for the Palestinians.”

Blair noted that the fact Hamas rules Gaza is an impediment to peace negotiations, but he also described the relative stability and prosperity of the West Bank, where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas still has control, as encouraging.

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