Tony Blair er åpen for å snakke med Hamas, men kun på bestemte vilkår. Det internasjonale samfunn må forholde seg til Hamas som de facto-makthaver i Gaza. Men for å bli partner i forhandlinger må Hamas innfri kravene om å gi avkall på vold, sier Blair.

Times slår opp at Blair vil snakke med Hamas, men Blair, som fortsatt er utsending for Kvartetten, kvalifiserer dette utsagnet på flere måter.

Asked whether he had changed his view about talking to Hamas since the Palestinian elections, Mr Blair replies that his «basic predisposition is that in a situation like this you talk to everybody».

However, he repeats the Quartet position that there can be no talks, official or unofficial, with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Mr Blair then says that there is a distinction between the difficulty of negotiating with Hamas as part of a peace process if they would not accept one of the states in the two-state solution, and «talking to Hamas as the de facto power in Gaza».

He declines to answer whether he has talked to Hamas unofficially, although his staff later insist that he has not, and that all contacts have been via Egyptian diplomats. Under intense questioning later he replied: «I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms.»

Pressed to go further Mr Blair says that he has to be careful how he expresses things because «if you do this in the wrong way it can destabilise the very people in Palestine who have been working all through for the moderate cause».

He added: «We do have to find a way of making sure that the choice is put before Hamas and the people of Gaza in a clear, understandable, unambiguous way, for them to choose their future. You have to find a way of communicating that choice to them in their terms. Now exactly what way you choose at the moment, that is an open question.»

Hamas must be brought into peace process, says Tony Blair