Minister Says It Is "Not A Priority" To Recognise The State Of Palestine Amid Ongoing Violence
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has said it is not "credible" to argue the government should prioritise recognising the state of Palestine amid ongoing violence in the region.
Cleverly, the Conservative MP for Braintree, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while the UK wanted to see Israel and Palestine reach a two-state solution, it was not a "priority issue" for the government at the moment.
As of Thursday morning seven Israelis and at least 67 Palestinians had died as a result of the worst violence in the troubled region in several years.
Militant organisation Hamas has fired over a thousand rockets into Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza have destroyed tower blocks and killed a Hamas commander.
Street fighting has broken out between Jews and Israeli arabs, triggering warnings that the violence could spiral out of control and plunge the region into civil war.
The situation escalated last week following unrest at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, as clashes broke out between police and Palestinian demostrators.
Protests have also broken out across Israel, with the government declaring a state of emergency in the city of Lod on Tuesday after three synagogues and numerous shops were set on fire.
Cleverly this morning described the scenes as "heartbreaking" and said the government was working with leaders in the region and international partners to encourage de-escalation.
"Ultimately, none of us should look at the situation we are seeing, the rocket attacks into Israel and the military response into Gaza, with anything other than sadness and horror," he said.
However, when asked by host Nick Robinson why the government would not recognise the state of Palestine, as called for by opposition MPs like Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, who describes herself as a British Palestinian, Cleverly said: “I don’t think anyone credible thinks that in the middle of the violence and conflict we are seeing at the moment that it should be the priority issue".
Cleverly said the government would "consider" recognising Palestine as a state "at a point when it best reinforces peace" in the region and that ending the violence "must be" the priority.
Moran, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesperson, yesterday said the UK has a "historic responsibility to the people of Palestine and a fundamental obligation to uphold international law".
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: "If this isn't the time to recognise the state of Palestine, then when is?"
In a tweet on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for “an urgent de-escalation of tensions” and urged both sides "to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint".
“The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions," he said.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, said Labour condemned Israel's attacks on Gaza and rockets attacks by Hamas "in the strongest possible terms".