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“We should talk with al Qaeda”, ex-Blair aide says

March 15, 2008

powell.jpgThe government should look at ways of opening communication channels with groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban if it wants a long-term political solution as well as a security solution, a former senior aide to Tony Blair says.

Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair’s chief of staff between 1995 and 2007, told the Guardian newspaper that such a policy helped secure a peace deal in Northern Ireland.

He was quoted as saying that a secret back channel between the British government and the IRA, first opened in the 1970s, was one of the key factors that contributed to a peace deal three decades later.

“It’s very difficult for democratic governments to do – talk to a terrorist movement that’s killing your people,” he was reported as saying.

“[But] if I was in government now I would want to have been talking to Hamas, I would be wanting to communicate with the Taliban; and I would want to find a channel to al
Qaeda.”

The Foreign Office said it was “inconceivable” that it would ever seek to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with al Qaeda, and has called on disaffected Afghans to renounce violence.

It has also told Hamas “dialogue is impossible so long as one party is dedicated to violence and the destruction of the other”.

Can peace be achieved without dialogue, and if not, at what point do you begin talking?

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