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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Press releases

UK Working With Allies To "Prevent Further Bloodshed" In Middle East

Rishi Sunak gave a statement to the Commons following the Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend (Alamy)

4 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that while the UK government would not support Israel taking retaliatory actions against Iran after it was hit with missile strikes over the weekend, the UK would continue to work with allies to prevent “further bloodshed.”

The UK helped Israel and its other allies to largely intercept an attack by hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday night. Having met with other G7 leaders on Sunday, Sunak said they were united in condemning the “reckless and dangerous” attack by Iran’s “despotic regime” – which the prime minister said was “emblematic of the dangers that we face today”.

“Although the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has a direct effect on our security and prosperity and home,” he told the House of Commons in a statement on Monday afternoon.

“So we are working urgently with our allies to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. We want to see calmer heads prevail, and we're directing all our diplomatic efforts to that end.”

Sunak confirmed he will be speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation.” That call is not expected to take place today, PoliticsHome understands.

Echoing comments made by Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Sunak said that “all sides must show restraint” and that the UK would not condone any retaliatory action by Israel against Iran in the aftermath of the missile attacks. 

The prime minister also stated that the attacks would not change the UK government’s position on Gaza and the importance of humanitarian aid reaching Palestinians.

“The appalling toll on civilians continues to grow,” he said.

“The hunger, the desperation, the loss of life on an awful scale. The whole country wants to see an end to the bloodshed and to see more humanitarian support going in the region. 

“The recent increase in aid flows is positive, but it is still not enough. We need to see new crossings open for longer to get in for supplies.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer responded  by sharing his support for the defensive action taken by the UK over the weekend, while also welcoming the call for restraint. He had been informed about the UK's plans to use RAF planes to prevent the Iranian attacks on Saturday night, while Speaker of the Commons Lindsay Hoyle was informed on Sunday morning. 

Starmer then asked Sunak for an update on what steps were being taken to pursue sanctions against the Iranian regime, as well as limiting the power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) in the UK.

Sunak replied that in his meeting with the G7 they had agreed to work together on further measures to counter the Iranian regime and its proxies.

"It was agreed that we should coordinate those actions and that work is now underway and obviously at the appropriate time ministers will update the House," he said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sunak's official spokesperson refused to comment on whether the government was considering prescribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation in light of Iran's attack.

Earlier today, the spokesperson said that if the Iranian attack had been successful, "it would have been hard to overstate the fallout for regional stability".

Downing Street indicated that the UK's military actions to help shoot down the Iranian missiles were "common sense measures" to prevent damage and ensure the UK was "acting in a collective self defence of Israel and the regional security".

Lord Cameron told Times Radio on Monday that while Israel had "every right to respond" to the attacks, the UK was "very anxious to avoid escalation".

“In many ways this is a double defeat for Iran," he said.

"Not only was their attack an almost total failure, but also the rest of the world can now see what a malign influence they are in the region and understand their true nature.

“It is right for Israel not to escalate, but obviously they’re a sovereign, independent country and they’ll make their own decisions.”

Although Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Sunday that Iran gave 72 hours' notice of its attacks to neighbouring countries and the United States, the UK's No 10 spokesperson confirmed that the UK had not directly received this warning.

They said that while Parliament has the ability to bring forward a vote on UK action in the Middle East if it wishes, there had been "broad cross party support" for "limited and proportionate activity".

No10 has said the government would not be publishing the legal advice behind the actions it took over the weekend.

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