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.

The 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.

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