Rishi Sunak plots two-state push with David Cameron as point man

Prime Minister brings in political heavyweight, making a powerful statement on UK foreign policy profile

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives at the rear entrance of Downing Street during Monday's cabinet reshuffle. PA
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Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heralded a new foreign policy approach on Monday to address growing international turmoil.

In a major international affairs speech on Monday evening, Mr Sunak promised to back international efforts to prevent the Israel-Gaza war from escalating into a region-wide conflict that would have global implications.

The surprise appointment of former prime minister David Cameron as Foreign Secretary has been viewed as a politically astute move that will substantially enhance Britain’s overseas standing.

“The UK wrote the original UN resolutions setting out a two-state solution and we’ve argued for it for decades but now we must help make it a reality,” Mr Sunak told an audience of diplomats, foreign policy thinkers and business leaders on Monday.

“To the UK’s friends across the region and to our communities in this country, I pledge to redouble British efforts to this end.”

During the speech, Mr Sunak noted: “The UK’s friends across the region, like Jordan, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia, who support normalisation and peaceful coexistence and to our communities at home.”

He went on to add that the UK must provide “serious, practical and enduring support needed to bolster the Palestinian Authority because they are the best route to sweep away the terrible scourge of Hamas and all it has wrought”.

“As hard as it may be, no matter the obstacles, we must put the region on the path to a genuine peace,” Mr Sunak said.

Mr Sunak also made the case for a foreign policy rooted firmly in British “values and vision”, pointing to its “resolute support for our allies” that includes Ukraine and the US.

“These alliances speak to something deeper: our willingness to act, to shape the world, not be shaped by it, wherever there’s a challenge, wherever there’s a threat, wherever we can promote peace and security.”

It is understood that Mr Cameron is highly likely to make a trip to the Middle East as a priority to address the growing calls to help bring humanitarian aid to Gaza.

His credentials as a former prime minister who undertook several trips to the region during his time in office, will give British foreign policy a significant lift.

Former ministers have told The National that Mr Cameron will “open doors that others cannot”, giving him access at the highest levels.

More importantly, his words will carry greater weight than his predecessors, which could mean that the Israeli government might take more notice if Britain backs calls for a ceasefire.

During a briefing of journalists in Downing Street on Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman argued that Mr Cameron “brings significant experience to the role”.

“It comes at a time particular challenge in Ukraine, the Israel-Gaza conflict so it's important for the right level of skills and capability,” he added.

Asked by The National what impact Mr Cameron might have on the world stage and in particular the Middle East, the spokesman said his appointment came at an important time in international politics.

“It's a huge advantage to have someone of that experience to that role, and is already established on the world stage,” he added.

He did not go into Mr Cameron’s future travel plans but said he would want to “meet with key partners” in the very near future.

British foreign policy decisions will continue to be made by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Foreign Secretary, he added.

It was also confirmed that Mr Cameron, who has now become a peer with a seat in the House of Lords, will attend parliamentary committee hearings but foreign questions will be answered in the Commons by Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell or the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s political spokesman stated that the suggestion to appoint Mr Cameron “was originally from the Prime Minster, who raised it as an idea”.

“The way that I characterise it is that this is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to strongly deliver the changes the country needs,” she added.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 9:12 AM