David Cameron has raised the prospect of visiting Israel next year – his first visit since he became Prime Minister.
Conservative MP Matthew Offord asked during Prime Minister’s Questions when he planned to visit “our closely democratic ally” to discuss the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Dr Offord, whose Hendon constituency is home to a large Jewish community, and who told the Commons he had just returned from a visit to Israel with parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “On both the Israeli streets and in the corridors of power, Iran remains the number one issue of concern.
“French President Hollande visited Israel earlier this week to discuss this matter with Israeli counterparts and appears to have clearly understood Israel’s legitimate concerns.
“When will you, our Prime Minister, be visiting Israel, our closely democratic ally in the region, to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue and other regional concerns?”
Acknowledging Israeli concerns about the possibility of Iranian nuclear proliferation, Mr Cameron said he hoped to visit in 2014.
He said: “I know there are many people in your constituency who care deeply about this issue and care deeply about the future of Israel.
“I’ll never forget the visit that I made as Leader of the Opposition and I look forward to visiting, I hope, next year.”
But Mr Cameron suggested any visit to Israel would also need to incorporate the Palestinian territories.
“When I went to Israel I also visited not only occupied East Jerusalem, but other places in Palestine as well – as is proper,” he said.
“But I do understand the very real concern that Israelis have about the potential Iranian nuclear weapon, that is why I spoke to President Rouhani of Iran last night to make clear that we want a good outcome to these talks, but it’s got to be an outcome that takes Iran further away from nuclear weapons, rather than one that sustains the status quo.”
Mr Cameron last night became the first British Prime Minister to call an Iranian president in more than a decade in a fresh sign of thawing relations.
The Prime Minister spoke to Hassan Rouhani by telephone ahead of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in Geneva this week.