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UK Labour leader Starmer says he wants to recognise Palestine as part of peace process

May 24, 2024 at 1:20 pm

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in Liverpool, northwest England, on October 11, 2023 [PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images]

Britain’s opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said on Friday that he wants to recognise a Palestinian state if he wins the General Election in July, but only if such a move is at the right time as part of a peace process, Reuters has reported.

Ireland, Spain and Norway announced this week that they will recognise a Palestinian state on 28 May, prompting an angry response from Israel, which said this amounted to a “reward for terrorism” and recalled its ambassadors from the three capitals.

The Labour Party has been engulfed by an internal battle over its policy on Israel’s war against the Palestinians in Gaza since the 7 October cross-border incursion by Hamas.

Starmer has faced criticism from some traditional Labour voters for only gradually shifting the party’s position towards supporting a ceasefire in Gaza. The party’s stance led to ten senior party MPs quitting their policy roles, and was blamed for a handful of disappointing results in this month’s local elections in some areas with large Muslim populations.

Asked if he thought Palestine should be a state, Starmer told the BBC: “Yes, I do, and I think recognition of Palestine is extremely important. We need a viable Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel, and recognition has to be part of that.” He argued that the “two-state solution” is essential for lasting peace in the region.

READ: EU’s Borrell says recognising Palestine is not a gift to Hamas

Such a “solution” has long been the framework of British foreign policy and international efforts to resolve the conflict, but the peace process has been moribund for years. The current Conservative government in Britain, and other European states such as France and Germany, have also voiced support in principle for a Palestinian state, but with the timing of recognition forming part of a broader peace process.

This week, Labour backed the independence of the International Criminal Court after it sought arrest warrants for both Hamas and Israeli officials for war crimes, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, opening up a divide with the governing Conservative Party.

According to the Conservative government in Westminster, the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to request the arrest warrants and it would not help get Israeli hostages out of Gaza, get humanitarian aid in, or deliver a sustainable ceasefire.

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