Hague says UK ready to 'assist in any way' in quest for Middle East peace

UK Foreign Secretary of State William Hague and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel this week

UK Foreign Secretary of State William Hague and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel this week

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the UK “stands ready to assist in any way” in advancing the peace process.

The two leaders met as part of Mr Hague’s visit to Israel this week alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Hague discussed peace negotiations , security concerns over Iran and Syria, and relations between the UK and Israel.

Mr Hague said after the meeting: “I reiterated the UK’s strong support for Mr Kerry’s efforts to relaunch the peace process and I welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution. The UK’s position is well known, we want to see a two-state solution, with a secure and universally recognised Israel living alongside a viable State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to help make progress to this end.

“The UK and Israel are close friends and allies and I attach great importance to our bilateral relationship. Our collaboration on hi-tech and science is second to none and today we affirmed the UK and Israel’s co - operation on security issues, including Iran. As a friend and ally, Britain is fully committed to Israel’s security needs.”

Before he met Mr Netanyahu, Mr Hague told reporters that the building of settlements “on occupied land” was to blame for the decline in British support for Israel.

Mr Hague told reporters: “Israel has lost some of its support in Britain and in other European countries over time — this is something I’ve often pointed out to Israeli leaders — because of settlement activity, which we condemn.”

“We strongly disagree with settlements on occupied land. Israel is a country we work with in many ways, but we do disapprove of settlements.”

He added: “We want to see both Israelis and Palestinians really commit themselves to the peace process while there is still a chance of a two-state solution.”

In a meeting with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, Mr Hague emphasised his determination to make progress in securing a peace deal.

He said : “It is a crucial time in the entire region with the Iranian nuclear programme , the tragic situation in Syria , and our hope that we can, through supporting Mr Kerry and his work, really help to make some decisive moves forward for permanent peace.”

Mr Peres commended Mr Hague for making Britain's position on Iran, terror and peace extremely clear.

"In spite of all the difficulties the time is right for peace. I can see positive developments on our side, on the Palestinian side and on the Arab side.”

Mr Hague also stressed his support for Mr Kerry's efforts to relaunch the peace process at a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Meanwhile Mr Kerry has expressed his hope “to surprise people” in making positive steps towards peace.

Mr Kerry said: “There have been bitter years of disappointment. It is our hope that by being methodical, careful, patient - but detailed and tenacious - that we can lay on a path ahead that can conceivably surprise people and certainly exhaust the possibilities of peace."

Last updated: 4:41pm, May 24 2013