LONDON – British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman to London ON Monday as part of his Israeli counterpart’s
three-day visit to the UK.
During an hour-long meeting at the Foreign
Office, Hague stressed the British government’s commitment to a strong
relationship with Israel. He also said the UK, and he personally, viewed Israel
as “a close friend of long standing.”
Additionally, he emphasized the
UK’s opposition to efforts to delegitimize Israel.
Both Hague and
Lieberman welcomed efforts to strengthen economic and scientific cooperation
between the two countries, and confirmed that the next meeting of the UK/Israel
Strategic Dialogue would take place in Jerusalem on March 17.
Israeli-Palestinian peace process was also central to Monday’s discussions.
Hague made clear that while Britain understood Israel’s security concerns, the
current freeze in talks was not in the interests of Israelis, Palestinians or
the wider region.
The foreign secretary also stressed Britain’s stance
that the window for peace in the Middle East was closing, and that continued
occupation was “eroding Israeli security and international support for Israel,
and hampering the region’s economic potential.”
In addition, he
reiterated the British government’s view that the construction of settlements
was “illegal, an obstacle to peace, and should stop,” and that Israel and the
Palestinian Authority needed to return to negotiations as soon as possible to
reach a two-state solution.
The ministers also discussed regional issues,
including a shared determination to see a resolution to Iran’s nuclear program
so as to avoid an arms race in the Middle East.
Lieberman was also
scheduled to meet with a number of MPs at Parliament on Monday, along with the
heads of the Conservative, Labor and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel
organizations. On Monday evening, the British Jewish community was to host a
dinner in his honor.