Blair: Period of calm essential for Middle East

Tony Blair made his first appearance in the British Parliament today since quitting as prime minister last year, telling MPs a “period of calm” was vital to the prospects for Middle East peace.

Mr Blair, who stepped down as an MP when he left Downing Street almost 12 months ago, was giving evidence in his capacity as an envoy for the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia.

“We have to alter the current state of events fundamentally.” he told the international development committee, which is investigating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“What we need to do is to get a period of calm, to get a ceasefire in Gaza, progressively to start reopening the crossings, start to get proper humanitarian help through and then build our way back out of this to a situation where the people of Gaza can be helped and secondly, and very importantly, the situation in Gaza does not disrupt other possibilities of progress,” he told them.

He said that his view of the situation had been transformed since he was dealing with the issue as prime minister and he now recognised the vital importance of the situation on the ground to enabling constructive political dialogue.

Earlier, he had defended under-fire successor Gordon Brown’s economic record.

“I said when I left that I was going to be 100% supportive of Gordon and the government and that’s what I continue to be,” he said during an interview with GMTV.

“It’s difficult for all leaders at the moment around the western world.”

Wife Cherie’s autobiography, which contained an unflattering portrait of Mr Brown, was “a bit of fun and it’s lively and it’s well meant”, he insisted.

Mr Brown had been “probably the most successful finance minister in the world for a decade”, he added.

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