Egypt, EU to continue joint efforts to halt Gaza war

LONDON: British Prime Minister Keir Starmer has told his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that there must be a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, while warning him to act “carefully” amid escalating tensions with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A 10 Downing Street spokesman said Starmer “said the situation on Israel’s northern border (with Lebanon) was very concerning and that it was crucial that all sides acted with caution”.

The Times reported that Starmer reiterated his commitment to “continuing the crucial UK-Israeli cooperation to deter malign threats” but that there was “a clear and urgent need for a ceasefire in Gaza, the return of hostages and an immediate increase in the amount of humanitarian aid reaching civilians”.

The Guardian reported that he convinced Netanyahu “that it was also important to secure the long-term conditions for a two-state solution, including providing the PA with the financial means to operate effectively.”

The announcement comes after reports that the new Labour government in the UK intends to withdraw its Conservative predecessor’s proposal to delay a decision by the International Criminal Court on whether to charge Netanyahu with alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The conservatives argued that neither the court nor any Palestinian body has jurisdiction over Israeli citizens, despite a 2021 decision by the International Criminal Court that found the court has the authority to prosecute violations of the Rome Statute in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and the West Bank.

However, Labour Party officials told The Guardian that the new government would not take up the challenge.

Starmer also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a series of exploratory talks following the former’s general election victory on Thursday. Abbas said he supported the “inalienable right” of the Palestinian people to have their own state.

He said his government would seek to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and pressure Israel to completely withdraw from Gaza.

A UK government spokesman said: “In discussing the importance of reform and ensuring Palestine’s international legitimacy, the prime minister said his long-standing policy of recognising contributions to the peace process had not changed and that this was the inalienable right of the Palestinian people.”

Labour has pledged in its manifesto to take immediate action for UK recognition of a Palestinian state after the party lost support for its position on Gaza in the UK regional elections in May.

Starmer said Israel had the right to defend itself following the October 7 Hamas attack, but later softened his stance.

Despite the change, the Labour Party lost five seats in Thursday’s election to pro-Palestinian independent candidates.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary David Lammy said he would consider restoring funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, as well as looking at issues such as Britain’s arms sales to Israel.

Britain has suspended funding for UNRWA after Israel accused its staff of involvement in the October 7 attack.

Most countries that took similar action have since resumed funding, but the previous UK government said it would wait for the results of the UN investigation before making a decision.

Lammy said: “We raised issues of funding… and real concerns that we did not want a situation where the UK was contributing to the huge difficulties in Gaza.”

On the arms sale, he added: “I made a solemn commitment in parliament that I would look at the legal assessments and of course I will start that process as soon as I can. I expect that to start next week when I sit down with officials.”

Lammy continued: “I have been very clear on international humanitarian law. There will be no turning back on that, because it is important that we are all seen to uphold the rules-based order, particularly at a time when authoritarian states are rejecting it. It is on that basis that I come into this role and I take it very, very seriously.”

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