Blair: ME peace possible 'within a year'

Quartet envoy says Obama needs partners, "not cheerleaders," calls PM's speech "step forward."

blair smiles and waves 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
blair smiles and waves 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could be reached "within the year," but only if all sides agree to peaceful negotiations, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair said in an interview to be broadcast Friday. The former British prime minister said there was a "great sense of hope and expectation" in the Middle East after US President Barack Obama's recent outreach speech to the Islamic world delivered in Cairo. "If President Obama gets the right partner, on the Israeli side but also on the Palestinian side, his determination to do this I have no doubt about at all," he told interviewer David Frost. "I have no doubt at all of his sincerity or his determination," he said on Frost Over The World, on Al Jazeera's English-language channel. "So if everyone would commit themselves to a peaceful political negotiation to a two-state solution, you could have this deal within the year. But people have got to be prepared to commit to it." "I think the Obama speech was really a huge event... I think this was a very big moment, a vital moment, for the region and for the wider world," Blair continued." I think there is a great sense of hope and expectation." "The important thing is to understand that President Obama doesn't need cheerleaders, he needs partners," he stressed. "He needs people who are going to help him achieve what he wants." Blair said Sunday's speech by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which he endorsed a demilitarized Palestinian state, was a "step forward," but said he recognized the criticism. "From the outside they're going to be skeptical, some cynical, some worried: 'Well what does this really mean?' and 'Are we going to be able to make progress on a basis that is acceptable to the Palestinian people?'," he said. "And that's obviously still to be decided. "So my view is, yes in that sense it is a step forward and now we've got to wait and see what actually happens."