UK foreign secretary calls for ‘lasting peace’ in Israel and Gaza Strip

Dominic Raab holds talks with senior figures during one-day visit after Gaza ceasefire

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab held in-person talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Wednesday and emphasised the need to ensure there is a lasting cessation of violence in Gaza.

After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Raab said the "UK is committed to working with regional leaders to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and forge lasting peace".

They also "discussed the flourishing UK and Israel relationship, the importance of a durable ceasefire in Gaza and the need to fight anti-Semitism".

During his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Raab reaffirmed UK support "for a two-state solution as the only way to bring sustainable peace".

Ahead of the visit, the UK government said it was committed to a two-state solution to resolve the conflict.

Mr Raab also had meetings with Israel's foreign and defence ministers, Gabi Ashkenazi and Benny Gantz, and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki.

The UK has pledged £3.2 million ($4.52m) in emergency aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to support those in Gaza affected by the conflict.

“The UK welcomes the ceasefire in Israel and Gaza," Mr Raab said. "It is crucial that all sides now focus on ensuring it can last.

"The events of the last month demonstrate the urgent need to make genuine progress towards a more positive future for Israelis and Palestinians, and break the cycle of violence that has claimed so many lives."

Britain has consistently backed Israel's right to self-defence, while urging it to act proportionately in retaliating against Hamas.

Mr Raab's visit follows a ceasefire that ended 11 days of conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The fourth conflict between Hamas and Israel since 2006 left at least 248 dead in Gaza – mostly civilians, including at least 66 children – and 12 dead in Israel, including two children.

Mr Raab's trip comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his own visit, vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem and giving millions in aid to help the Gaza Strip.

In Jerusalem on Tuesday, Mr Blinken said Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side was "the only way" forward.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s government on Tuesday supported a parliamentary motion condemning the “de facto annexation” of Palestinian land by Israeli authorities in what it said was the first use of the phrase by a European Union government in relation to Israel.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who has represented Ireland on the United Nations Security Council in debates on Israel in recent weeks, supported the motion, and condemned what he described as Israel’s “manifestly unequal” treatment of the Palestinian people.

But he also insisted on adding a condemnation of recent rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas before he agreed to government support for the motion, which was tabled by the opposition Sinn Fein party.

“The scale, pace and strategic nature of Israel’s actions on settlement expansion and the intent behind it have brought us to a point where we need to be honest about what is actually happening on the ground. ... It is de facto annexation,” Mr Coveney told parliament.

“This is not something that I, or in my view this house, says lightly. We are the first EU state to do so. But it reflects the huge concern we have about the intent of the actions and of course, their impact,” he said.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS