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Monday, July 9, 2007

Miliband on British Middle East policy

Britain's new foreign secretary, David Miliband, was interviewed by the Financial Times.

Miliband: And I think that, I said on Tuesday that I thought the bedrock of the UK government's approach to the Middle East and specifically the future of relations between Israel and a future Palestinian state were threefold.

First, the two-state solution is something that we have to keep on reiterating our support for and not least in the context of what's happened over the last three or four weeks. It's nearly 40 years since the passage of Resolution 242. We've got to remain faithful to that.

Secondly, we've got to support the efforts of those who are peacemakers and those committed to peaceful processes, and thirdly we've got to engage in an economic social and humanitarian agenda. And I think in the short term that yields some very, very clear priorities, not least to support prime minister Fayyad and president Abbas in building Palestinian institutions that can represent the aspirations of all the Palestinian people.
 Well everybody wants to avoid a deepening pit of anarchy, as you put it. Every single state and every single person in the region has got a huge interest in avoiding that. Equally, the quartet principles ask for a basic measure of engagement and that's why I say that the first part of the bedrock of our approach is a commitment to a two-state solution, you've probably got tired of people saying it. But actually, given that we've got a very clear idea of what the final political end game can be in this, to pretend that the flexibility is about that – and you talked about flexibility – to suddenly say that there's flexibility about one of the two states having been there at all, I think is not a sensible way of proceeding.
FT: ...Iran clearly on the way to developing its nuclear capability. In broad terms, what should the policy response be?...

DM: ...Iran has every right to be a secure, rich country. It doesn't have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and it doesn't have the right to undermine the stability of its neighbours. And that's why I think the E3 plus three approach, and you can choose your own metaphor, but it makes a very clear offer to the Iranians with big gains for them, as well as having sanctions if they defy the international community.

And I think that part of the answer to one of the first questions I was asked, which was the nature of our alliances, those are multilateral alliances that we take very, very seriously, and that I take very, very seriously. And I think two UN Security Council resolutions is very significant, I think they've sent a very clear signal, more than a signal, they are powerful levers, and I think that they present some clear choices for the Iranian leadership.
FT: However...nothing we've done so far has made them reconsider the longstanding strategic decision to go for the nuclear option.

DM: Well, there's a separate discussion to be had about the extent to which, what has it slowed down, and how has it slowed down, and what effect has it had since 2003, and while we can get into that, I don't particularly want to. I don't want to leave on the record that it's necessarily 100 per cent correct what you've said, but leave that to one side. We are ready to work with our partners on a third resolution, we think it's very, very important that the international community remains clear and united on this issue, and I think there's a very clear offer on the table for the Iranians.

FT: What do you think of Iran's complicity in attacks on British soldiers in Basra?
DM: Well, I think that any evidence of Iranian engagement there is to be deplored. I think that we need regional players to be supporting stability, not fomenting discord, never mind death. And as I said at the beginning, Iran has a complete right, and we support the idea that Iran should be a wealthy and respected part of the future. But it does not have the right to be a force of instability.

FT: Just to be clear, there is evidence?
DM: Well no, I chose my words carefully…
FT: I know, but I'm now asking you.

DM: Well as you know, we are very careful about what we say about these things.
FT: And military action? Is it conceivable?
DM: I think that the whole of the international community wants a non-military diplomatic solution to this problem.
There are positive aspects to this interview, but it is discouraging that the Foreign Office is unwilling to face evidence that Iran is responsible for trouble in Iraq. As expected, he is playing the game of "answer the question you wanted them to ask, not the question they asked." Is military action conceivable, yes or no? Is there evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq or not? You won't find out from a diplomat. He did seem to be saying that Britain will not be pulling out of Iraq any time soon. If there are differences from previous foreign policy under Tony Blair, it is hard to find them here.

Ami Isseroff
Cross posted:  Israel News     Middle East Analysis

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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