Egypt revolt could be pivotal for region: Blair

13th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could be a pivotal moment in the spread of democracy across the Middle East, peace envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair said Sunday.

But he warned that the West had to engage with both protesters and governments in the region to ensure that it capitalises on a "moment of excitement but uncertainty."

"This is a moment where the whole of the Middle East could pivot and face towards modernisation and democracy and that would be a huge benefit for all of us," Blair told the BBC.

"We should have a strategy of engagement with the democratic, modernising forces across the region. We should be helping countries evolve and move in the direction of change."

Blair said that a "benign" new administration in Egypt could unblock the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, especially if it helps modernising elements in the Palestinian Authority.

He warned, however, that the region could "either go towards an open-minded, modern type of democracy, let's hope that it does, or it could be swung into something narrow and extreme and closed-minded.

"I think there's every possibility that we get the first and not the second and our purpose as the West should be to engage insofar as possible to bring about that more benign scenario," he added.

The ex-premier also defended Mubarak, who stood down on Friday after weeks of protests against his authoritarian three-decade rule, as a stabilising force.

"You can't invite him to the White House five months ago, and I was there with President (Barack) Obama, as a partner in peace and them simply forget all that," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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