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(photo credit: Danielle Manson)
LONDON - British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed his counterpart, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to London at the start of his three-day visit to the UK.
During the hour-long meeting at the Foreign Office in central London, Foreign Secretary Hague stressed the British government's commitment to a strong bilateral relationship with Israel.
Lieberman heard during the meeting that the UK, and the Foreign Secretary personally, sees Israel as "a close friend of longstanding," with Hague also underlining the UK's opposition to efforts to delegitimize Israel.
The foreign ministers welcomed efforts to deepen economic and scientific co-operation between the two countries, and confirmed that the next meeting of the UK/Israel Strategic Dialogue would take place in Jerusalem on March 17.
Central to the discussions also was the Middle East Peace Process.
The Foreign Secretary made clear that while Britain understands Israel's security concerns, the current freeze in the Peace Process is not in the interests of Israelis, Palestinians or the wider region.
Hague also stressed Britain's stance that the window for peace in the Middle East is closing, and that continued occupation is "eroding Israeli security and international support for Israel, and hampering the region's economic potential."
He made clear again the British Government's view that the construction of settlements is "illegal, an obstacle to peace, and should stop."
Hague also underlined the need for Israel and the Palestinian Authority
to find a way back to negotiations as soon as possible in order to reach
a lasting two-state solution.
The ministers discussed regional issues, including their shared
determination to see a resolution to Iran's nuclear program to avoid an
arms race in the Middle East.
Following the meeting, the Foreign Secretary gave Lieberman a tour of the Cabinet War Rooms.
Lieberman is meeting a number of MPs in Parliament on Monday, along with
heads of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Friends of
Israel organizations. On Monday evening the Jewish community is hosting
him at a dinner in his honor, before he returns to Israel on Tuesday.