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Blair: Economy is crucial in Middle East peace process

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is now a special envoy in the Middle East, said economy is vital in the peace process.

"The economic side, which is absolutely vital because if we don't build the Palestinian economy up at the same time as you are pursuing the political negotiation then a state for the Palestinians seems a dream and not a reality," Mr Blair said.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

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PM meets Blair in Jerusalem to discuss Middle East

David Cameron met the Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

David Cameron and Tony Blair Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The two spoke for 20 minutes, discussing the peace process.

Asked whether missile attacks could knock the plan off track, Mr Blair said: "The strikes from Gaza just underline and illustrate the depth of the problem.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

PM to meet Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

David Cameron is meeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today on the second day of a trip to the Middle East designed to bolster efforts to rekindle the stalled peace process.

David Cameron will meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today Credit: PA

Mr Cameron will also hold talks with one of his predecessors, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, to discuss progress on peace talks. Mr Blair is the European peace envoy of "the Quartet" of the United Nations, the EU, the US and Russia.

They are expected to meet for 20 minutes in East Jerusalem to discuss Mr Blair's Palestinian economic initiative, which aims to promote growth in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Prime Minister's appeal yesterday for Israelis and Palestinians to embrace a vision of lasting peace in the region was undermined by a barrage of more than 30 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza into the south of Israel.

Read: PM appeals to Israel for peace deal after rocket attacks

Blair aide: Downey's release 'not amnesty but a cock-up'

Jonathan Powell pictured in London last year. Credit: PA

Tony Blair's former chief of staff and Britain's chief negotiator in the peace process has said Northern Ireland's secret letters crisis is based on "a misunderstanding."

Writing in The Times, Jonathan Powell said discussions about "on-the-runs" were "no secret" and a "recurring issue" throughout peace process negotiations.

"The letters are statements of fact, and certainly have nothing to do with an amnesty," he added.

John Downey’s release, he goes on, "has nothing to do with an amnesty or a secret deal and everything to do with a cock-up."

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Robinson accuses Blair of 'deception by omission'

Peter Robinson pictured at a speech in Belfast earlier this week. Credit: PA

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in a "deliberate deception by omission" by failing to tell the majority of politicians in Northern Ireland about the agreement his government struck with Sinn Fein to deal with on-the-run republicans, Stormont's First Minister has said.

Peter Robinson heavily criticised the conduct of the previous Labour administration as he addressed an emergency meeting at Stormont to debate the controversy over letters sent to more than 180 terror suspects informing them the authorities in the UK were not seeking them.

"The answer that there were no plans to legislate and no amnesty would be introduced was a deliberate deception, a deception by omission, for the Government could easily at that stage have indicated that there was an administrative process which included giving letters to OTRs," he told MLAs.

Blair: Religious extremism 'is biggest source of conflict'

Former prime minister Tony Blair has warned terrorism motivated by religious extremism is growing and the West needs a global strategy to tackle it.

Mr Blair writes in The Observer that wars in the 21st Century will no longer be about extreme political ideology like the last.

Former prime minister Tony Blair.
Former prime minister Tony Blair said the West needs a global strategy to tackle terrorism. Credit: Dennis Van Tine/ABACA USA/Empics Entertainment

The Middle East peace envoy said the West must tackle conflicts by educating people about religious tolerance alongside security measures, including military action.

He writes: "The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion.

"It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion. There is no doubt either that this phenomenon is growing, not abating."

Blair's tribute to Sharon: 'A giant of this land'

Speaking at the state memorial service in the southern Negev desert, former Prime Minister Tony Blair paid tribute to Ariel Sharon's "idea that the Jewish people, so often victims of injustice and persecution, should have a state where they could be independent and free."

"Think good or ill of Arik Sharon, agree or disagree with him, but that calling - a noble one - was plain and unalloyed," he said.

Sharon, he added, was "a warrior to create his country, yet wise enough to know that war alone could not secure his future."

"He was a giant of this land."

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