Sunak backs Foreign Secretary after comments on Palestinian state recognition

Rishi Sunak has given his backing to his Foreign Secretary after Lord David Cameron suggested that the UK could look at recognising a Palestinian state.

The remarks were seen in some quarters as a shift in tone and policy from the UK Government, an interpretation Downing Street has rejected.

But the comments still sparked a backlash from Tory MPs, with some suggesting such a move would “reward Hamas’s atrocities”.

The Foreign Secretary told a Conservative Middle East Council reception in Westminster last week that formal recognition could help end the Israel-Hamas conflict and make a two-state solution in the Middle East “irreversible”.

The Prime Minister indicated that he believed Lord Cameron’s words had been overinterpreted, as he also declined to explicitly say whether he thought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to his concerns about the situation in Gaza.

He said: “Our position is the same, and as David was saying, we are committed to a two-state solution, we are absolutely committed.

“That has been a long-standing position of the UK Government, and actually what has happened over the last few months has reminded us that we need to redouble our efforts to bring that about, working with all our partners in the region.

“I went very soon after the attacks to meet with everyone in the region to talk about this, and we are playing a role.

“I met with the president of the Palestinian Authority specifically to talk about this. But we have to think about that in the context of what is going on right now and that is why the immediate priority is to get aid in, get hostages out, build the conditions for a sustainable ceasefire.”

Mr Sunak, pressed about the British position in an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, said: “At the moment what we are looking to do is build the conditions to get hostages out, aid in, a sustainable ceasefire – that looks forward to the future that the Foreign Secretary talked about, where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side, both with dignity, with peace, with security and opportunity.”

The offensive in Gaza that Israel launched in response to the October 7 attack has killed more than 27,000 people, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.

Mr Netanyahu, who leads a right-wing government, does not support Palestinian statehood.

Last month he publicly said he opposed US calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state when the conflict comes to an end.

Mr Sunak was asked directly by the TalkTV host if Mr Netanyahu listened to his advice.

He said: “Actually we have managed over time to increase the number of trucks which are going into Gaza.

“It is still not enough but compared to where we were in the beginning we have persuaded him to open up the crossing, to get hundreds of trucks in, but we need hundreds more.

“So, look, there is progress that is being made, but it is nowhere near enough, and I will keep pushing so that we can get the support that we need to help people.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Sunak insisted the UK would be able to defend itself properly if Russia turned its intentions towards the country.

It comes as the war in Ukraine continues and amid fears of growing unrest and tensions around the world.

The Prime Minister said: “Yes, and my first job is to keep everybody safe. Unfortunately, the world is becoming less safe and we can see that obviously with the situation in Russia and the Ukraine.”

He added: “In general, do I think we are well protected, well invested? Yes. We are the second biggest defence spender in Nato.”

Mr Sunak told the broadcaster that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ensured “we are in a much stronger position now to resist further aggression from him”.