Peter Hoskin

Talking with terrorists

Talking with terrorists
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There's a punchy interview with Jonathan Powell - Tony Blair's former chief of staff, and a key figure in the Irish peace process - in today's Guardian.  He's quite candid about the Blair years - suggesting, for instance, that New Labour didn't govern boldly enough because it was too scared about losing power.  But his words on dealing with al-Qaida are particularly controversial:

"There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they've got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you're going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk ... It's very difficult for democratic governments to do - talk to a terrorist movement that's killing your people ... [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-Qaida."

Talking with terrorists is a strategy that's had some success in Ireland.  But it's a very dangerous approach, and risks legitimising anyone who picks up a gun or plants a bomb in the name of their cause.  Lines need to be very carefully drawn.  Where would CoffeeHousers place them?