British PM Rishi Sunak pledges to stand with Israel in its ‘darkest hour’


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Thursday pledged to stand with Israel in its “darkest hour” and welcomed the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza as he held talks with the country’s top leadership during his two-day visit to the Middle East aimed at preventing further escalation of conflict in the region.

After his meetings with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sunak acknowledged the “shocking scenes” over the past day.

He pledged to stand with Israel in its “darkest hour” and welcomed the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza. The British Indian leader was greeted by Netanyahu with an embrace and described each other as my friend.

“You described this as Israel’s darkest hour. Well then it’s for me to say I’m proud to stand here with you in Israel’s darkest hour, as your friend we will stand with you in solidarity, we will stand with your people and we also want you to win,” said Sunak, addressing a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart.

“I also want to thank your government for the support it has given to British nationals caught up in this horror, he said.

Turning to Netanyahu, he said the UK knows Israel is taking every precaution to protect civilians, which is in direct contrast to the terrorists of Hamas, which seek to put civilians in harm’s way, as he expressed his regret at being in Israel in such “terrible circumstances”.

“In the last two weeks, this country has gone through something that no country, no people, should have to endure. Least of all Israel,” he noted.

Earlier, he held talks with Israel’s President Herzog during which the leaders agreed on the importance of getting urgent humanitarian support to ordinary Palestinians in Gaza.

In a readout of the meeting, Downing Street said the leaders stressed the imperative need to avoid further escalation of violence in the region and agreed to continue working together to that end.

I am in Israel, a nation in grief. I grieve with you and stand with you against the evil that is terrorism. Today, and always, Sunak tweeted as he landed in Tel Aviv.

Sunak’s visit to Israel follows that of US President Joe Biden as world leaders step up efforts to prevent the conflict with Hamas from spilling into the wider region. Sunak is next set for a visit to Saudi Arabia and will cover other major capitals in the Middle East for further talks.

“Above all, I’m here to express my solidarity with the Israeli people. You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you, he told reporters on his arrival in Israel.

In an earlier statement, the British Prime Minister said the attack on the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza on Tuesday should be a watershed moment for the world.

“Every civilian death is a tragedy. And too many lives have been lost following Hamas’s horrific act of terror, he said.

“The attack on Al Ahli hospital should be a watershed moment for leaders in the region and across the world to come together to avoid further dangerous escalation of conflict. I will ensure the UK is at the forefront of this effort,” he said.

Sunak’s visit comes as other European leaders also undertake similar tours of the Middle East in a show of Western unity. The US, UK, Germany, France and Italy form part of the so-called Quint, a diplomatic collective who have presented a united front over the actions of Hamas in Israel and Gaza.

His visit coincides with that of his Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who began a multi-country visit across the Middle East on Thursday night as part of efforts to help prevent the conflict from spreading across the region and to work towards a peaceful resolution. Cleverly is planning to meet senior leaders in Egypt, Turkey and Qatar over the next three days, where he will discuss coordination on efforts to avoid a spillover in violence which would devastate the wider region.

It is in no one’s interests neither Israeli, Palestinian nor the wider Middle East for others to be drawn into this conflict. I am meeting counterparts from influential states in the region to push for calm and stability, facilitate humanitarian access into Gaza and work together to secure the release of hostages, said Cleverly.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the trip has been planned to countries which are vital to international efforts to uphold regional stability, free hostages and allow humanitarian access to Gaza, with all three vital interlocutors in the Middle East.

The UK Foreign Secretary will discuss the urgent need for the Rafah crossing to open so that lifesaving aid can reach those who need it and for Hamas to release the hostages.

“The UK remains committed to mitigating the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and calling for international humanitarian law to be respected, while standing alongside the people of Israel against the terrorist group Hamas, the FCDO said.

The UK said its key focus is on pushing for an agreement on humanitarian access to Gaza, the release of British hostages and foreign nationals, and securing safe passage for British Nationals to leave Gaza.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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