William Hague: Israel and Middle East, not one or other

William Hague

William Hague

William Hague has said that Britain wants to have a good relationship with Israel, irrespective of this country’s links with countries in the region.

The Foreign Secretary, responding to questions put to him on Twitter, said: “We want strong relations with Israel as well as with other countries in the Middle East - it is not one or the other.”

Two days after he caused widespread outrage by warning Israelis concerned about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood that “now is no time for belligerent language”, Mr Hague said he believed Israel would only achieve the long-term security it deserved after a peace deal was forged.

He said: "We want to see an independent Palestine alongside Israel – with the same rights to democracy as any nation.”

Praising Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair for doing “important work” with Israel and the Palestinians, nevertheless Mr Hague said it was “no substitute for direct talks and peace agreement.” He said that the turmoil in Egypt and across the Middle East had made “the need for a two state solution more urgent- before it gets even harder to achieve.”

Asked how the Foreign Office would view a democratic Egypt that did not consider Hamas to be terrorists, Mr Hague said: “We're clear - Hamas is a terrorist organisation and should renounce violence.”

Questioned on Britain’s efforts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, the teenaged Israeli soldier captured by Hamas gunmen in June 2006, Mr Hague called it “unacceptable” that Hamas continued to hold him.

Mr Hague said: “We raise his case often and call for his release.”

    Last updated: 2:16pm, February 11 2011