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New 10-year pact leads to closer UK-Israel ties

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-11-30 09:07

Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (R) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid walk after attending a news conference at the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London, Britain, Nov 29, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The foreign ministers of the United Kingdom and Israel have said the nations are "transforming our close friendship into an even closer partnership" after signing a new 10-year pact for deeper diplomatic ties on Monday, with the prevention of Iran from getting nuclear weapons being one of its top priorities.

Cybersecurity will also feature prominently in the deal signed by Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, which a jointly-written article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper called "a new strategic plan for the next decade spanning cyber, tech, trade and defence".

The signing comes a week after the UK followed the lead of the European Union and United States in proscribing the political wing of Palestinian group Hamas, which British Home Secretary Priti Patel called "fundamentally and rabidly anti-Semitic "and having "significant terrorist capability, including access to extensive and sophisticated weaponry as well as terrorist training facilities", a decision that was welcomed by the Israeli government.

"There is no legitimate part of a terrorist organization, and any attempt to differentiate between parts of a terrorist organization is artificial," said Lapid.

In the Telegraph article, which called the pact "a victory for optimism", it is reported that the two countries have a trading relationship worth five billion pounds ($6.67 billion), and that Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva now provides one in six prescription medicines used by the National Health Service.

In an incident filmed and shared on social media, Israel's ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, was recently harassed by pro-Palestinian protestors outside the London School of Economics after giving a speech, an occurrence that was specifically mentioned in the letter.

"There is no place for anti-Semitism anywhere in the world. That is why the UK has moved decisively to support Israel in this fight by proscribing Hamas in its entirety," it said.

"The Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, planned for near Parliament, will stand as a constant reminder, and demonstrate why we must stamp out anti-Semitism and hate."

But the most explicit statement of joint policy was with regard to Iran, where the article said the two countries would "work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power".

On the same day the article came out, talks between Iran and a bloc of China, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and the EU relating to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal resumed in Vienna after a five-month delay.

If progress is made, Iran could find itself liberated from hundreds of Western economic sanctions, although there are also reports of concerns about the prospects of the negotiations.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump took his country out of the deal; successor Joe Biden has indicated he could be willing to rejoin, but clear differences still exist between Iran and the US.

China said on Monday that the US, as the culprit of the Iranian nuclear crisis, should remove all illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran.

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