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New Middle East minister attacks settlements

    Britain’s new Middle East Minister has used his first visit to Israel to criticise settlement building and warn that it could hamper peace efforts.

    Hugh Robertson said settlement announcements “erode public support” in Britain, and warned that building could “endanger the viability of a two-state solution and peace process”.

    Mr Robertson was making his first overseas trip since moving to the Foreign Office in last month’s government reshuffle.

    His comments echoed those of his predecessor Alistair Burt.

    The Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent met Israel’s deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin and praised the “flourishing partnership” between Britain and Israel in technological innovation and co-operation.

    During the two-day visit Mr Robertson laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and was briefed on security issues.

    He said: “I made clear my understanding of Israel’s security needs and the UK’s admiration for the bold steps taken by Prime Minister Netanyahu in releasing prisoners, but I reiterated the UK’s strong concern over recent settlement announcements.”

    The minister also visited Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and toured Jewish and Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem.

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