On Thursday, Palestinians in the West Bank started a campaign to win international support for their request to be recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. Palestinian diplomats are expected to file for statehood during the upcoming meeting of the U.N.'s General Assembly, held later this month in New York.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair discussed these and other developments in the Middle East in a recent interview with Reuters. Blair said that although he recognizes the frustrations of the Palestinians -- "We are all frustrated," he said -- the only way to get a Palestinian state is "through a process of negotiation."
Blair is currently the head envoy for the Middle East Quartet -- the supranational group consisting of Europe, the United States, Russia and the United Nations. The former PM was in Israel earlier this week, where he reportedly announced that he was working to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. "Between now and whatever happens at the U.N., we have to work very hard and put a negotiated process back on track," Blair told Reuters. "There is no other way." The former PM argued that unilateral declarations are understandable, but will not deliver a Palestinian state.
Question remains how much Blair will be able to achieve this close to the U.N.'s scheduled vote, as Palestinians are expected to present their case to the General Assembly on September 20th. Moreover, the former British PM has walked a controversial path as the Quartet's envoy. Blair failed to call for a ceasefire during Israel's 2008 attack on Gaza, was accused of using his position for personal financial gain, and failed to lead negotiations on core issues of the conflict.
In the Reuters interview, Blair also discusses the British rapprochement with ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Blair said he didn't regret Britain's openness toward Libya, as it was important at the time to support Gaddafi's renouncement of Libya's chemical weapons stockpile and support for terrorism. "The external policy of Libya changed ... The trouble was in the end that they weren't prepared to reform internally," Blair said.
Watch Reuters' interview with Tony Blair here: