LONDON – Continued settlement building undermines Israel’s long-term security, British Foreign Minister William Hague told the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Wednesday.

“This government gives its strong support to the Middle East peace process, and to a two-state solution which brings security to both Israelis and Palestinians.

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That is why in recent days we have been pressing the Israeli government to hold back the settlement building which makes talking harder and therefore the long-term position of their own country less secure,” Hague said.

On Iran, the foreign minister said that Britain had no quarrel with the Iranian people, but vowed to continue to lead the way in the call for sanctions against the Islamic regime.

“Two weeks ago, I met the Iranian foreign minister and made clear our approach to relations with them.

“We have no quarrel with the Iranian people and no wish to be an enemy of Iran. It has a natural place as a leading nation in its region,” he said.

“But as long as the Iranian nuclear program is pursued in defiance of the world and without a clear peaceful purpose, this country will continue to lead the way, as we did this summer, in imposing tighter sanctions on Iran both at the United Nations and in the European Union.


“Those sanctions are beginning to bite and Iran has said it will negotiate. We look to its leaders to do so in a serious and meaningful way,” Hague said.

Addressing a meeting of over 400 people at a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) event at the conference on Tuesday evening, Hague pledged tough action on Iran, which he described as “one of the foremost issues in world affairs.”

Summing up what the government had achieved in its first six months in regard to halting Iran’s nuclear program, he said: “We have secured a number of things we called for, for a long time in opposition. UN Security Council resolution 1929 passed in June, which rather surprised the Iranians by having the united support of Russia and China for a sanctions resolution.

“We put a lot of energy with France and Germany into agreeing in July [on] strong additional EU sanctions, which will begin to bite over the coming months; and we have encouraged other countries like Japan, Korea and Australia to take their own unilateral sanctions measures on the Iranian nuclear program,” he said.

Hague said that he is in strong agreement with Israel on the need to tackle Iran.

“So in discussions with Israeli ministers about these subjects over the last few months, I find a strong measure of agreement about the need to tackle this issue. It is one of the foremost issues in world affairs,” he said.

“I met the Iranian foreign minister for the first time two weeks ago for a substantial discussion and it was a frosty meeting on every... on human rights, on the treatment of our embassy, on the nuclear program, of course. But he did undertake, and the president of Iran undertook in public shortly afterwards that we would enter negotiations in the coming weeks. And now we look for them to do so in a serious and meaningful way – of which there must still be considerable doubt.”

At the CFI event, Hague also touched on the controversial universal jurisdiction law, which he has pledged to change to stop activists from exploiting the law.

“The last government left us with an appalling situation where a politician like Tzipi Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK,” he said.

“I was genuinely surprised that despite [former foreign minister] David Miliband saying in December that this was an urgent issue, the Labor government did nothing about it all the way to the general election [in May 2010].

“We have agreed in the coalition about outing it... We will put it right through legislation that will be introduced. [Justice Secretary] Ken Clarke will bring into the House of Commons, adding to legislation going through parliament later this year, and I phoned Mrs. Livni, amongst others, to tell her about that, and received a very warm welcome for our proposals.”

“What you can be assured of is that this government takes the issue of the Middle East and bringing long-term peace and security to the region, including to Israel, very, very seriously as one of our highest priorities in foreign policy, and there will be no lack of energy in the ministerial team in this government in pushing forward these objectives,” Hague said to rapturous applause.

Conservative Friends of Israel’s main campaign at the conference was a Free Gilad Schalit petition, which they presented to Hague at its event.

“CFI’s Free Gilad Schalit petition secured over 1,000 names in just three days at the conference,” said CFI director Stuart Polak.

“Conservative Ministers, MPs, councillors and activists all signed it, and I believe this demonstrates better than anything the widespread support for the plight of Gilad and the understanding of Israel’s case across all levels of the Conservative Party.”

In his address to the conference on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister David Cameron touched on his government’s approach to foreign relations.

“This government has set a new direction right across our foreign policy. Our principles are simple. Don’t neglect important relationships,” he said.

To rapturous applause, Cameron condemned the decision made by the previous Labor government to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

The Libyan was serving life for murdering 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Scotland in 1988, but was released last year on compassionate grounds on account of having terminal cancer.

“We will always pursue British interests,” the prime minister said. “But there are some red lines we must never cross.

“Like the sight of the man responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, the biggest mass murderer in British history, set free to get a hero’s welcome in Tripoli.

“No. It was wrong,” Cameron declared.

“It undermined our standing in the world, and nothing like that must ever happen again.”

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