Mike Pompeo: Palestinians should take this chance for peace

Speaking in London, the US Secretary of State also calls for Iran to withdraw its funding to Hezbollah

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visit Epic Games Lab in London, Britain, January 30, 2020. Pompeo predicted Thursday that Brexit would bring "enormous benefits" to the United States and the UK, during a visit to Britain on the eve of its historic departure from the European Union. Pompeo IS in London on the first leg of a five-nation tour that also takes him to Ukraine. / AFP / POOL / KEVIN LAMARQUE
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Palestinians should take the opportunity presented in Washington’s Middle East peace plan.

Speaking in London, Mr Pompeo said Palestinians needed to learn from earlier talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, which he said had failed to make progress.

He told Sky News Arabia that the Palestinian Authority, which has refused to enter new talks, needed to take responsibility for its decision.

On Tuesday US President Donald Trump unveiled what he has called the “deal of the century” to end the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

The plans, which have been tentatively welcomed in the Middle East and Europe as a chance to resurrect peace talks, were roundly dismissed by the Palestinian Authority.

Mr Trump’s proposed solution would grant a Palestinian state but also gives Israel sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank, northern Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley.

It also gives Israel ownership of the whole of Jerusalem.

“This is a basis for negotiation," he said. "We’ve asked them to do that. We’ve made an offer.

"Now it’s their responsibility to accept this offer and to consider what might be different, what might be better, and how they could begin to have a dialogue between Israel and themselves to lead to a brighter future for the Palestinian people and a secure future for the state of Israel as well.

“We are confident that as the Palestinians evaluate this proposal, their choice is what they have today or this as an opportunity.  This was an offer that’s been made.

"It’ll sit out there for four years. We hope over time the Palestinian people will recognise that pushing back against Hamas, allowing a real government to take shape and take form inside, all the conditions that we’ve set forth that would give the Palestinians a state, is an opportunity that the Palestinian people will realise comes along once in a lifetime.”

Speaking earlier alongside British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Mr Pompeo said Iran could bring itself in from the international cold without even negotiating if it stops funding its global proxies.

He told the audience in London on Thursday that the regime in Iran was in “no doubt” of what the US wanted for a rapprochement but there had to be an appetite for change from the regime.

Mr Raab said, however, that Iranian hardliners and their supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, lacked the political will change their outlook.

“There are also things the Iranians could just choose to do, no need to negotiate. Just do them. Like, just stop underwriting Hezbollah around the world,” said Mr Pompeo, who described Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

He spoke of the Lebanese militant group’s actions in the Middle East, South America and the West.

“It’s a global campaign underwritten by the Iranians,” Mr Pompeo told an audience at London think tank Policy Exchange.

"Stop fomenting terrorism in Afghanistan. Stop providing Iraqi Shiite militias with high end weapons systems that can launch missiles into 5 per cent of the world's global energy supply. Stop taking ships off the Strait of Hormuz."

Tensions are particularly high in the Middle East after the killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani by the US in Baghdad earlier this month.

The British government and the administration of US President Donald Trump have diverged at times on their approach to Iran, although Mr Pompeo and Mr Raab said the two countries had the same goal.

Mr Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, enacted to limit its nuclear capacity, and renewed sanctions.

Iran has in return begun enriching uranium beyond limits set out in the 2015 accord.

As a result, this month Britain, France and Germany began a process that could lead to UN sanctions on Iran.

Mr Raab said the three countries aimed to bring Iran back to complying with the deal and international law.

But he said: “We want to say to Iran, ‘We’re calling you out’.”

Mr Raab said that Britain was open to a new, wider agreement with Iran that dealt with the nuclear issue and other subjects, including its support for proxies and its “appalling” treatment of dual-nationals.

“This comes down to a decision by the regime in Tehran," he said. "Does it want to take the steps to respect the international law and to come back into the community of nations?

"We can’t make that choice for the regime in Tehran. What we can do is hold them to account every step of the way.

“Until Iran is willing and the hardliners around the regime and the supreme leader are willing to make that choice, it’s merely an offer to from one side.”

Mr Pompeo, who was due to hold talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson later on Thursday, said sanctions on Iran had put great pressure on its economy and limited its ability to “harm people”.

“We think denying them money and wealth is the right way to go to force them to make difficult decisions,” he said.