Alistair Burt named as Middle East minister

MP returns to role he held under Coalition government when he was praised for his fair-minded and honest approach to Israel


Alistair Burt has been appointed minister for the Middle East in Theresa May's government.

He replaces Tobias Ellwood, who has been moved to the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Burt, who is MP for North-East Bedfordshire, tweeted that he was delighted to be returning to the Foreign Office.

He held the same role for three-and-a-half years in the Coalition government until he was sacked in October 2013.

A member of Conservative Friends of Israel, he was widely praised for his even-handedness in dealing with Middle East affairs, with the UK Jewish community appreciative of his close work with Israel.

At the time of his departure, Stuart Polak, then CFI director, described him as “fair-minded, honest and consistent in his dealings with the various parties in the area.

“He maintained a balanced and neutral position and never deviated from his view that two states for two peoples was the key to peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Before he was a minister, Mr Burt helped campaign for visiting rights for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas.

Educated at Bury Grammar School and St John’s College Oxford, Mr Burt was first elected to Parliament in 1983. He and his wife Eve have two grown-up children.

In 2015 he was made minister of state for community and social care at the Department of Health. A  Remain supporter, he resigned from that position after Britain voted to leave the EU last year.

Welcoming the appointment, Richard Verber, Board of Deputies senior vice-president Richard Verber said: “We warmly congratulate the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP on his appointment as Minister of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

"The Board of Deputies enjoyed a good working relationship with Mr Burt when he was last in this post and looks forward to meeting him soon to discuss a range of issues of concern to our community including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran’s poisonous influence in the region and beyond.”

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