The ousting of Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s leader could prove a pivotal moment in spreading democracy across the Middle East, Tony Blair has said.
The former prime minister, now a peace envoy in the region, said it was a “moment of excitement but uncertainty” and the West should engage with supporters of democracy across the Middle East.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “We should have a strategy of engagement with the democratic, modernising forces across the region. We should be helping countries evolve and move in the direction of change.”
Mr Blair said progress could unblock the peace process and be of “huge benefit”.
He said: “This is a moment where the whole of the Middle East could pivot and face towards modernisation and democracy and that would be a huge benefit for all of us.”
He acknowledged the situation in Egypt had been “fantastically destabilising” for the Palestinian Authority but if a “benign” new administration was established in Cairo it could help to support modernising elements within Palestinian politics.
Mr Blair said: “This is a region in transition. The question is where is it transiting? It can either go towards an open-minded, modern type of democracy, let’s hope that it does, or it could be swung into something narrow and extreme and closed-minded.
“I think there’s every possibility that we get the first and not the second and our purpose as the West should be to engage insofar as possible to bring about that more benign scenario.”
Mr Blair also defended Mr Mubarak, saying: “You can’t invite him to the White House five months ago, and I was there with President (Barack) Obama, as a partner in peace and them simply forget all that.
“He was a force for stability in the region and in the peace process, there were economic changes in Egypt that were beneficial over the past years but, having said that, the reason why this is a moment of huge exhilaration and excitement and opportunity is that there were a whole lot of forces for democracy, for change for economic and social reform in Egypt that were held back and those are now unleashed.”