One of Britain’s most senior diplomats has slammed Israel’s recent settlement expansion “deep in the West Bank,” saying “too many people continue to undermine efforts to achieve peace”.

In a speech at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Middle East, attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the UK’s Chargé d’Affaires Jonathan Allen said both sides had an equally valid claim to the land.

“It is unacceptable for anyone to deny the legitimacy of the connection of either the Jewish or Palestinian peoples to the land,” he said. “Inflammatory and unhelpful rhetoric on both sides weakens trust, corrodes mutual respect, and undermines prospects for peace.”

Allen criticised the Palestinians for violence including the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) along the Gaza border, injuring four Israeli soldiers, and the act of terror in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, where a father of four was stabbed and killed earlier this month.

But Allen also laid into Israel on settlements, saying they “called into question Israel’s own commitment to peace”.

He said: “We are concerned by the Israeli Government’s recent decision to establish a settlement deep in the West Bank, the second in twelve months. These plans have also raised the possibility of the retroactive ‘legalisation’ of the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad. And there have been renewed threats from Israel to demolish structures in Susiya, in the occupied West Bank.”

He added: “We call on Israel to immediately reverse its policies of settlement expansion and demolitions. They undermine the physical viability of the two-state solution and they call into question Israel’s own commitment to peace.”

Allen further called for “an easing of access controls for people and goods into and out of Gaza,” after UN Special Coordinator Nicolay Mladenev reported that conditions in the Strip were now “dire”.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation stated that 54 Palestinian patients died in 2017 while awaiting exit permits to get medical treatment outside Gaza, and this week the UK’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt expressed “concern about ambulance and permit delays”.

He said: “The circumstances in Gaza remain dire in many ways. The free movement of patients and medical personnel is vital to the effectiveness of care.”