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Tony Blair Calls Shalit Deal Opening to Peace

The envoy for the Middle East Quartet of peacemakers, Tony Blair, on Tuesday welcomed Gilad Shalit?s release from Hamas captivity, saying that it was a ?moment of great joy? for the soldier and his family as well as for the families of the Palestinian prisoners released as part of an agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Blair, who represents the foursome of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, also said that the moment could prove to be an opportunity to kick start the peace process.

?I hope it also offers us a moment of opportunity, and not simply in respect of Gaza where Hamas are presently in charge, but also for a?revival of credibility in a peace process we really need to prioritize,? he told the BBC.

Meanwhile United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that he expected the prisoner swap to boost prospects for the wider peace process.

?With this release, it will have a far-reaching positive impact to the stalled Middle East peace process,? Ban said at the end of a three-day trip to Switzerland.

?I am very encouraged by the prisoner exchange today after many, many years of negotiation. The United Nations has been calling for [an end to] the unacceptable detention of Gilad Shalit and also the release of all Palestinians whose human rights have been abused all the time.?

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