UK 'concerned by Israeli settlements'
The FCO Director General for Political Affairs, Simon Gass, concluded a two day visit to the West Bank and Jerusalem, British Consulate-General in Jerusalem said in a press release Wednesday. Gass reiterated the UK's strong support for US efforts on the Middle East Peace Process. He praised the courage of leaders on both sides in resuming negotiations, and stressed that both sides must continue to show leadership to overcome the challenges ahead.
During his visit, Simon Gass met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in Ramallah to discuss progress in the Middle East Peace Process. He also met Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat, and senior Palestinian officials Hanan Ashrawi and Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Gass said, "Peace in the Middle East remains a top priority for the British Government. I have been encouraged by the leadership of President Abbas in leading his people back to talks with Israel. The need for peace is both urgent and pressing."
He added, " Secretary Kerry has the full support of the UK, and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that talks are successful."
In regards to recent reports on Israeli settlements, FCO Minister for Middle East Alistair Burt tweeted: "Concerned by inclusion of 91 settlements on #Israel's National Priority Area list. US-led efforts towards peace must be the priority"
Earlier this month, Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the return to direct talks between the two parties. He said:
"The resumption of talks has been possible because of the courageous leadership already shown by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, as well as the commitment of negotiators on both sides. Determined leadership from the United States has also been critical and will remain so in the months to come.
As President Obama and Secretary Kerry have set out, hard work and difficult choices lie ahead. We do not underestimate the challenges but firmly believe that if both parties continue to show bold leadership, peace is possible. It is also urgent: 2013 must be the decisive year for peace. Britain will do all it can to support the Israelis, Palestinians and the United States to achieve a two-state solution and the lasting peace that the people of the region deserve.