Tony Blair: focus on peace talks not Palestine Papers

By Jennifer Lipman, January 28, 2011

Tony Blair has expressed concern that the Palestine Papers were leaked in order to destabilise the situation in the Middle East.

The former British Prime Minister who is now Middle East envoy for the Quartet, told the BBC’s Today programme that the documents were likely intended to be “extremely damaging” to the Palestinian leadership.

The papers, released by Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera earlier this week, have shed light on concessions allegedly offered by the Palestinians to Israel in 2008. However Mr Blair warned that the importance of the documents should not be overstated.

Drawing on his experience negotiating a peace deal for Northern Ireland in 1998, he said: "You would expect people [to be] negotiating, to be putting forward positions, taking them back.

"I think it is destabilising for the Palestinians, however I think we have got to be big enough and strong enough to say 'OK, look, whatever Al-Jazeera are putting out we are just going to get on with making peace.”

Mr Blair also commented on the situation in Egypt, where large-scale protests against the government of President Hosni Mubarak are expected to continue today.

He said he was "absolutely in favour of change" but stressed that this needed to happen "very, very carefully".

"If you open up a vacuum anything can happen.”

Last updated: 11:23am, January 28 2011