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Blair: Faiths Insight Missing in Middle East Diplomacy

Thursday, 19 Apr 2012 10:37 AM


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair encouraged the United States Thursday to stay the course in Afghanistan, as he called for a better “understanding of other faiths” in the pursuit of diplomacy in the Middle East.

“Just remember, even in the Middle East, even in some of these countries where you think America is disrespected and disliked, there are lots of people who still look to America and to what America represents in terms of freedom and democracy,” Blair said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “My advice to you is just put up with that, but remain true to what you’re trying to do in the region.”

Blair also addressed what he suggested was a failure of Western politics and diplomacy to engage on the issue of faith.

“I don’t think you can understand the Middle East or the broader region in countries like Pakistan, for example, unless you understand the importance of faith,” he said, noting people everywhere regard it as a crucial element of their daily lives.

“You’re talking about a fundamental social condition, in which faith plays an enormous part,” he added. “Now faith can mean either a very exclusive view of faith, like if you’re not of my faith you’re my enemy. Or it can be a faith built around peaceful coexistence.

It’s really important that we understand that we have got to engage with this issue.”

Blair said it was important in negotiations to create ways of reaching out to people “across the faith divide” so that “even if I remain a Christian and you may be a Jew or a Muslim, we can at least see a basis by which we can live together, learn from each other and work together.”

“Politics almost wants to put it to one side because it’s so tricky,” Blair continued. “But I keep saying to people you can’t deal with religion as if it’s not religion; it is religion.”

Asked about the U.S. position in Afghanistan, Blair said it was “absolutely necessary” that the Afghans eventually take charge “of their own destiny.” But he stressed it can’t be accomplished without the continued assistance and military training of U.S. forces. He said was crucial that the United States remain engaged after nearly all American forces are withdraw by the end of 2014.

“You guys, and [President Barack Obama] has been clear on this, you aren’t just departing, you’re going to remain supporting. There will be some troops that actually remain,” he said, adding, “The president is right to do that.”






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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair encouraged the United States Thursday to stay the course in Afghanistan, as he called for a better “understanding of other faiths” in the pursuit of diplomacy in the Middle East.
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