Middle East minister: Downing Street knew of UN settlements vote beforehand

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Middle East minister: Downing Street knew of UN settlements vote beforehand

Tobias Ellwood claims the government was involved in discussions with the Foreign Office ahead of the vote

Number 10 Downing Street
Number 10 Downing Street

Downing Street was involved in discussions with the foreign office ahead of the UK voting in favour of a UN resolution branding settlements “a flagrant violation of international law”, the Middle East minister has said.

Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood made the claim in the House of Commons this week, when asked by Hendon MP Matthew Offord whether the prime minister had known about Resolution 2334 beforehand.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office discussed the UK’s voting position on UNSCR 2334 with 10 Downing Street prior to the vote in the UN Security Council,” said Ellwood.

“The UK’s support for UNSCR 2334 is consistent with our long held position that Israeli settlement activity is illegal and undermines the viability of two states for two peoples.

“As the Prime Minister… stated in her speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel in December, the UK remains one of Israel’s strongest friends, but it is important as a true friend to stress that settlements are illegal.”

The resolution has been called “a disgrace” and “an act of spite” by Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush, who added: “It is full of outrageous falsehoods, it is amoral and it was shameful that the UK Government voted in favour of it.”

At a protest rally, Arkush said he had written to Theresa May expressing “anger that British diplomats sunk to such depths” and that he wanted to know “how on earth our Government came to vote for it”.

He added: “I intend to follow up with Ministers and I will be asking them… was the Prime Minister ‘blind-sided’ as has been suggested?”

Tory MP Mike Freer had earlier told Jewish News that May had indeed been “blind-sided” by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so news that Number 10 had been briefed and informed beforehand is likely to disappoint Jewish representatives.

May appears to have sought to balance the scales in the immediate aftermath of the 23 December vote, by criticising a speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry six days later. Arkush described this as “highly unusual” and “virtually unprecedented”.

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