UK and Israel agree to confront ‘destabilising’ Iran behaviour

The UK and Israel pledged to work together to curtail Iran’s “destabilising behaviour” in the Middle East.

Tensions between Britain and Iran escalated in July when the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps off the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian authorities were set to release seven crew members this week but 16 remain on-board.

The vessel’s capture came two weeks after an Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya 1, was held off Gibraltar with the help of the Royal Marines after it was suspected of violating EU sanctions on Syria.

It was released last month by Gibraltar.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu met in Downing Street on Thursday, with the escalating situation with Iran one of the most pressing topics.

“Both prime ministers agreed on the need to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon and stop wider destabilising Iranian behaviour,” said a Downing Street spokesman.

“The Prime Minister stressed the need for dialogue and a diplomatic solution.”

The comments follow pressure from Israel for Britain to pull out of talks to salvage some of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord that was ripped up by US President Donald Trump after he came to power.

The deal allowed limited nuclear activity in Iran in exchange for the relaxing of strict sanctions.

Mr Netanyahu told reporters before his London visit: “This is not the time to hold talks with Iran, this is the time to increase the pressure on Iran.”

Speaking in Number 10’s White Room, Mr Netanyahu described British and Israeli relations as at an “all-time high” but said there were “challenges” to confront together.

Benjamin Netanyahu Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (Aaron Chown/PA)

“We have the challenges of the Iran administration and terrorism and I’d like to talk to you about how we can work together to counter these things for the development of peace,” he told the PM.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson told his counterpart, both publicly in front of journalists and in private, that his administration remained committed to a two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.

The Conservative Party leader said: “The UK is still supporting all efforts to reach a solution in the Middle East peace process, a two-state solution, you will recall, remains our solution.”

Mr Netanyahu replied: “I want to talk to you about that too.”

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the matter was addressed during the bilateral meeting.

An important meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I thanked him for his support of Israel and his stance against antisemitism. We spoke also about our security challenges with Iran. Thanks, Boris! pic.twitter.com/aYGjrY8zWW

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 5, 2019

They said: “The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu also discussed the Middle East Peace Process.

“The Prime Minister said that he looks forward to seeing the US administration’s detailed proposals for a viable Israel-Palestinian peace agreement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both parties.”

Before the meeting, Mr Netanyahu called Mr Johnson a “great friend to the Jewish” people, adding: “I applaud your response and stance against anti-Semitism, your support for us on security.

“Our relations are at an all-time high economically, on trade, technology and defence co-operation,” he added.

The two leaders had previously met to mark the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration while Mr Johnson was foreign secretary.

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