London: Britain will consider recognising a Palestinian state as part of concerted efforts to bring about an “irreversible” peace settlement, the foreign secretary, David Cameron, has said.
In what would mark a landmark diplomatic moment, he said the move would help to bring about a two-state solution – currently facing trenchant opposition from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinians must have “a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution”, Lord Cameron said in a speech on Monday night at a reception in London.
The foreign secretary had pushed Netanyahu over a two-state solution to bring about peace for both Israeli and Palestinian people last week during a meeting in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has rebuffed efforts from allies, including the US, to win his support for the proposal, saying it would “endanger the state of Israel” as he criticised the “attempt to coerce us”.
But in his speech on Monday, Cameron spelled out how the UK and allies could add to pressure by considering recognising a Palestinian state at the United Nations.
“We should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like – what it would comprise, how it would work,” he said.
“As that happens, we, with allies, will look at the issue of recognising a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations. This could be one of the things that helps to make this process irreversible.”
Pressed about recognising a Palestinian state, the prime minister told parliament last week that Britain would consider such a move “when the time is right”.
Cameron will this week make his fourth visit to the Middle East since being appointed foreign secretary in November as he presses for a de-escalation of tensions.
Starting in Oman, the senior Conservative peer is expected to call for stability amid Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and an immediate pause in the conflict in Gaza as he seeks to work diplomatically to stop the Israel-Hamas war from escalating into a wider conflict.
An attack by Iran-backed militia in Jordan over the weekend that killed three US troops and left dozens injured has stoked fresh fears of a western confrontation with Tehran.
The UK, the US and other allies been trying to police the Red Sea after the Houthis, another Iran-backed rebel group, based in Yemen, began targeting commercial shipping on the vital global trade route in recent months.
The US and the UK launched a second round of joint strikes against the rebels but it appears to have done little to deter the Houthi missiles.
A British-linked oil tanker went up in flames after a strike claimed by the Yemen-based group on Friday, before a further attack on HMS Diamond, a Royal Navy destroyer stationed in the Red Sea, was repelled.
Speaking before his return to the Middle East, Cameron said: “The Houthis continue to attack ships in the Red Sea, risking lives, delaying vital aid getting to the Yemeni people and disrupting global trade.
“And we cannot ignore the risk that the conflict in Gaza spreads, spilling over borders into other countries in the region.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that does not happen – escalation and instability is in nobody’s interests. In Gaza, there is an urgent need for an immediate pause to allow aid in and hostages out.
“We are determined to do all we can to press for a sustainable ceasefire, and are stepping up our engagement with countries in the region to make sure that happens.”
The Foreign Office said the Red Sea crisis was likely to form a “major focus” of the former prime minister’s discussions during the trip.