Tue, Feb 08, 2011 - Page 6 News List

UK urges Israel to help head off Iran with Palestine deal

Reuters, JERUSALEM

Israel could bolster the international campaign to head off Iran’s nuclear program by pursuing peace with the Palestinians, Britain said on Sunday.

The remarks by British Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox ran counter to arguments by Israel, whose negotiations with the Palestinians stalled last year in a dispute over West Bank settlements, that Palestine talks hinged on first curbing its Iranian arch-foe.

“The United Kingdom is pushing for stronger sanctions to influence Iran, but the importance of the Middle East peace process should not be overlooked,” Fox told the Herzliya Conference, an annual Israeli security forum. “Progress towards a two-state solution — a secure and universally recognized Israel alongside a viable and contiguous Palestinian state — is important for defusing the malign political influence of Iran in the region.”

Britain and other world powers held unsuccessful talks in Istanbul last month with Iran, which denies seeking the bomb.

Calling the prospect of the Iranians’ uranium enrichment project yielding warheads a “disaster,” Fox said: “We want a negotiated solution. But Iran needs to change its approach fundamentally if we are to achieve that outcome ... We will not look away, and we will not back down.”

He added a warning that appeared aimed at Turkey, which has championed accommodation with Tehran.

“For sanctions to work, regional powers and neighbors need to make sure they are not used by Iran to help it avoid or water down the impact of economic sanctions,” Fox said. “Those who allow Iran to avoid the effect of sanctions are themselves an obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the Iran problem.”

Fox linked the malaise in Israeli-Palestinian engagement, and wider regional conflicts, to Britain’s national security.

“What happens here can have a direct impact on the national security of the United Kingdom — our prosperity and the safety of our citizens,” he said.

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