Tony Blair warns over Palestinian statehood bid

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Tony Blair warned today that the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations would be "deeply confrontational" without a return to peace talks with the Israelis.

The former prime minister, now Middle East representative for the international community, said UN recognition would not change conditions on the ground in the Occupied Territories.

He stressed that he was not trying to block the application for Palestine to be recognised as a state and said its leaders were "entirely entitled to do so".

But he went on: "You can pass whatever resolution you like at the United Nations or the Security Council, it doesn't actually deliver you a state on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza, and if you don't have a negotiation, whatever you do at the UN is going to be deeply confrontational."

The issue has divided the international community, with Israel and the US strongly opposed and France trying to seek a compromise.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted to "debates" at the top of government about how Britain should respond.

Mr Blair, special envoy for the US, UN, EU and Russia Quartet, said he was working day and night to find a way of relaunching negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

He suggested Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who will present his application to the UN later today, did not need the statehood recognition to hold talks with Israel.

"When you actually get down to the detail of territory, security, Jerusalem, refugees, water, all the issues, to be absolutely frank about it, it doesn't make a great deal of difference whether you are designating someone as a state or not a state," he said.

"The Palestinian Authority and President Abbas are perfectly able to negotiate with the Israelis."

He added: "With the changes going on in the region at the moment, there is a huge strategic interest on both sides to get a credible negotiation going again."