Israel's Netanyahu calls on 'responsible' nations to join Iran sanctions

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2017 10:58 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to Britain to join new sanctions against Iran as he met his British counterpart Theresa May in London on Monday, while she cautioned about Israel's plans for new settlements in occupied territory.

Netanyahu said "responsible" nations should follow new U.S. President Donald Trump's imposition of sanctions against Iran following a ballistic missile test.

"Iran seeks to annihilate Israel, it seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the West, it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation," Netanyahu told May ahead of their meeting.

"That's why I welcome President Trump's assistance of new sanctions against Iran, I think other nations should follow suit, certainly responsible nations. I'd like to talk to you about how we can ensure that Iran's aggression does not go unanswered."

May, who has repeated her backing for the nuclear deal with Tehran strongly opposed by both Netanyahu and Trump, said they would discuss Iran in their talks.

Earlier her spokeswoman said May would also tell Netanyahu that continued Israeli settlement activity in occupied lands captured in the 1967 Middle East War on which the Palestinians hope to create independent state undermined trust in the region.

Despite their differences, London has adopted a more positive approach to Israel since May became leader after last year's vote to leave the European Union, echoing the more sympathetic tone set by Trump, with whom Britain wishes to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

Last month Britain said it had reservations about a French-organized Middle East peace conference in Paris and did not back the final communique by 70 countries which reaffirmed that only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its stance angered many EU members.

In December, Britain also scolded then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech criticizing Israeli policy.

May told Netanyahu Britain was a "strong and close friend of Israel" and highlighted their co-operation in science, trade and security.

Their meeting had an awkward start as the Israeli prime minister arrived early at Downing Street, meaning May was not there to greet him. Having entered her office alone, he returned outside minutes later for the customary handshake.

Small groups of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters gathered outside Downing Street and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, said May's stance on settlements was not good enough.

"Theresa May must make clear to the Israeli prime minister that the British government will stand unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people," said Corbyn, who once described members of Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah as friends in comments he later said he regretted.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan)