High time for Middle East peace: UAE to Blair

ABU DHABI - The United Arab Emirates said it was high time for serious efforts towards Middle East peace as Tony Blair arrived in the Gulf state on his first visit to the region as an international envoy.

"It is high time to find real mechanism to achieve peace ... all efforts should be exerted towards just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East so that the Palestinian people achieve their legitimate rights," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told Blair.

The official WAM news agency said Sheikh Abdullah also voiced support for Blair's mandate to revive the stalled peace process between Palestinians and Israel.

The former British prime minister earlier spoke of a "moment of opportunity" after he met Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Tuesday but warned that steps towards peace would take time.

On the Gulf leg of his regional tour, Blair is expected to also visit Bahrain. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan form a group set up at an Arab League summit this year to promote an Arab offer to Israel of normal relations in return for full withdrawal from lands occupied by the Jewish state in the 1967 Middle East war.

Blair's meetings in the Gulf coincide with a visit by the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan to Israel to promote the Arab peace proposal, which also calls for a just settlement for Palestinians displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948.

Blair said earlier on his trip that he had come to the Middle East to "listen and reflect" and that he would return for a longer visit in early September.

Blair was appointed this month as envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.


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