Tony Blair: 'West should focus on radical Islam'


Tony Blair: "We should be on the side of those who favour religiously tolerant societies and modern economies"

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Tony Blair has warned Western leaders they must put aside their differences with Russia over Ukraine to focus on the threat of Islamic extremism.

In a speech the former UK prime minister - now a Middle East envoy - said powerful nations must "take sides" and back "open-minded" groups.

Mr Blair told the BBC ahead of the speech the West would pay a "very heavy price" for not intervening in Syria.

He said the opportunity to create "an optimistic solution" had been missed.

Mr Blair gave his speech at Bloomberg in London amid high tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

Western leaders accuse Russia of using undercover military personnel to back separatists in eastern Ukraine - a claim Russia denies.

No-fly zones

Before the speech, the former PM - now envoy for the quartet of the UN, EU, US and Russia - spoke to the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner.

He argued the West had a "responsibility but also an interest" in making sure that "huge struggle" was "resolved in the right way".

"However much people may think we can just push it to one side and forget about it, I think that would be a mistake.

"Above all, we have to commit. We have to engage."

On the issue of Syria, Mr Blair said he understood the UK's reluctance not to take military action, but he would have pushed for the imposition of no-fly zones had he still been in office two years ago.

"I know what the difficult consequences are of intervention, but if you look at Syria you see the consequences of non-intervention, and non-intervention there is something for which we will pay a very heavy price."

'Curiously reluctant'

In his speech at Bloomberg, Mr Blair called on Western leaders to "elevate the issue of religious extremism to the top of the agenda".

And they must co-operate with other countries - "in particular, Russia and China" - regardless of "other differences".

Site of a bombed building in Aleppo (20 April 2014) At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year civil war

He argued the threat posed by a radical view which "distorts and warps Islam's true message" was "spreading across the world".

"It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation.

Start Quote

Above all, we have to commit. We have to engage”

End Quote Tony Blair Middle East envoy

"And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively."

He called on leaders to consider the "absurdity" of spending billions of dollars on security against an ideology which is being "advocated" in the schools and institutions of "countries with whom we have intimate security and defence relationships".

"Some of those countries of course wish to escape from the grip of this ideology, but often it is hard for them to do so within their own political constraints," he added.

"This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st Century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    I thought this was about commenting on his view on radical Islam, not Why I hate Blair.
    Any comments on the subject matter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    Yo Blair, it is you that's responsible for Radical Islam. You and your fellow purveyor of religous genocide, Bush. Even if the West is under assault thanks to you, it won't quite be on the scale of mass-murder you commited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    He never visited the wounded from the last war he got us into. That's what I remember about the quality of this politician. A discredit to this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    @997 The brain washing argument is much over stated. Those involved in terrorism/militancy see themselves as combatants in a war. This may not fit with your idea of mad ignorant people being brainwashed, but until we understand the reasons they feel they are at war then we won't solve these issues. I'm not an apologist for the terror & violence on either side, but very little is brain washing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    The only kind of intervention we should have entertained in Syria was telling the Saudis and Qataris to stop supplying resources to the insurgents. From that moral high ground, we could then have pressured the Russians to do the same vis a vis Assad. Yet again, Blair shows himself intellectually and morally ill-equipped to play any role in Middle Eastern politics


Comments 5 of 1011


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