Rishi Sunak reiterates UK position on Middle East peace in call with Benjamin Netanyahu

Leaders held their first talks since they both came to office last year

Temple Mount in Jerusalem. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke on the phone to his Israeli counterpart. EPA
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Rishi Sunak has reaffirmed Britain’s long-standing position on the Middle East peace process in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The UK Prime Minister congratulated Mr Netanyahu on his reappointment and they agreed to advance bilateral relations, including on trade.

The pair discussed how a free-trade agreement, which remains under negotiation, has the potential to “unlock further opportunities for both our countries, building on our shared leadership in areas like technology and services,” Downing Street said.

In a statement, Mr Sunak’s office also said the Abraham Accords would serve as a foundation on which nations in the Middle East could improve relations with each other.

The pacts facilitated by the US were signed between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in 2020.

The Tony Blair Institute said in December that Britain should capitalise on the landmark accords to foster closer ties with Middle Eastern nations.

“The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu also discussed co-operation between the UK and Israel on security issues, where both countries have an interest in promoting regional stability,” the statement continued.

“The Prime Minister outlined the steps the UK has taken to respond to abuses of human rights and breaches of international law by the Iranian regime, including sanctioning Iran for illegally supplying military drones to Russia. The Prime Minister thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu for his support to Ukraine.

“The Prime Minister reaffirmed the UK’s long-standing position on the Middle East Peace Process. The leaders agreed that the Abraham Accords had the potential to bring about a permanent step change in relations between Israel and its neighbours, with far reaching benefits.

“The leaders looked forward to meeting in person soon and to marking Israel’s 75th anniversary later this year.”

Mr Netanyahu made a comeback as Israel's leader in the latest election after more than a year in opposition, extending his record-setting tenure as Prime Minister.

He is facing fierce criticism and protests at home over moves to overhaul the country's judicial system and weaken the supreme court.

The changes could help Mr Netanyahu, who still faces court proceedings for alleged corruption, evade conviction.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 2:57 PM