West Bank – Improving conditions for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank prove that a Palestinian state can be built from the bottom up while it's being negotiated from the top down, Tony Blair said Tuesday.
The Middle East envoy said on a visit to the central city of Nablus that the Palestinian Authority's improving security capability together with Israel's easing of some checkpoints had delivered some economic progress.
Blair, representing the Quartet of Middle East mediators made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, also said he believed U.S.-led efforts to revive the stalled peace process would soon lead to talks.
The Americans are working very hard on this ... in the next few weeks, next few months, we're going to see the launch of credible political negotiations, he told Reuters in Nablus.
Blair said the economy in Nablus was improving because the Palestinians are providing their own security today, and doing it well, and the Israelis are starting to lift the access and movement restrictions..
There could be immense change here, he said, if talks went in parallel with bottom-up efforts, including providing the security, lifting the weight of occupation, allowing the Palestinians to move and getting the economy going.
Palestinian militants were in control of Nablus, the former West Bank commercial hub, during a violent uprising that erupted in 2000. Until weeks ago Israeli troops operated a major checkpoint controlling access to the city.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposes support for the Palestinian economy while negotiating the creation of a state with limited sovereignty, provided Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- which they have rejected.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Atef Saad; Writing by Douglas Hamilton, editing by Dominic Evans)