Blair sees ''sense of possibility'' regarding Israel-Palestine talks
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking for the first time on his first trip as Mideast peace envoy, called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders Tuesday to take advantage of a new ''sense of possibility'' in the region.
Blair, who arrived in Israel on Monday, said he had come ''to listen, to learn and to reflect'' during two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. But already, he said he senses a willingness by the sides to make progress.
''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,'' Blair said after meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
Blair is in the region as the new envoy for the ''Quartet'' of Mideast mediators - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. He is charged with laying the foundations for a future independent Palestinian state.
Blair told Israeli officials in meetings on Monday that a Mideast peace summit planned this autumn must bring substantive results, and not just be a public relations event, Israeli officials said Tuesday, according to the AP.
The British envoy met later in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Blair's mission will complement direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. ''What will make the requirement for peace at the end of the day will be the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian tracks,'' he said after Blair's talks.
He said the envoy would return to the Mideast in September.
Another Palestinian official who participated in the meeting said Blair informed Abbas that his official mandate was to provide an economic horizon for Palestinians but he would try to use his good relations with Israel and US President George W Bush to restart the peace process.