Former Foreign Secretary William Hague

Former Foreign Secretary William Hague

William Hague has insisted that Britain and Israel remain in lockstep on efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and said that the “weight of sanctions” must be maintained in the coming months, writes Justin Cohen

Tehran and the international community this week agreed to extend talks for seven months after a Monday deadline passed without agreement on the amount of uranium Iran should be able to enrich or the extent to which sanctions against it would be lifted. Nevertheless, as Benjamin Netanyahu said “no deal is better than a bad deal”, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted “significant progress” had been made.

Speaking at a Jewish Care business breakfast, his first for any organisation for a decade, Hague insisted that the pressure must be maintained on Iran. He told Jewish News: “Israel expressed concerns a year ago when I took part in the temporary agreement.

I understood Israel’s concerns because they were worried the whole sanctions regime would collapse if there was any relief. That has not  happened and I think Israel has been reassured by that the great bulk of the sanctions remain in place.

“We [Britain and Israel] are both determined that Iran will not have nuclear weapons and I think both are in favour of trying to solve this diplomatically.”

While the former Foreign Secretary said the troubles in the Middle East made this “the most difficult time any of us can recall”, he insisted the crisis in Syria and the rise of Islamic State did not mean the world could afford to turn away from the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Hague – who stressed the importance of unity against terror attacks such as the one against worshippers in Har Nof last week – said Britain would continue to support the “herculean efforts” of John Kerry to reach a deal.

The House of Commons Leader of the said: “Public opinion across all parties has become more critical on the settlement issue and that’s something I hope Israeli leaders will take notice of.”  He hailed the “immensity” of Jewish Care’s “fantastic” work and referring to charity trustee and Tory treasurer Lord Howard Leigh, he added: “Any cause that he supports I’m happy to support.”

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