UK & World News

  • 6 August 2014, 4:44

PM Defends Gaza Stance After Warsi Resigns

The Prime Minister has set out the UK's position on the conflict in Gaza after Baroness Warsi hit out at the Government's stance in a letter of resignation.

Lady Warsi said the Government's "approach and language" during the month-long conflict in Gaza has been "morally indefensible".

And she added: "I always said long after life in politics I must be able to stand by the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that."

In a caustic appraisal of David Cameron's policy on the Middle East Peace Process she said it had caused significant damage to Britain's international standing.

She later told reporters she had tried to convince the Government its position on Gaza was not in Britain's interests but felt she was making no progress and had to resign "on a point of principle".

In his response, the Prime Minister said he regretted her decision, but understood her "strength of feeling on the current crisis in the Middle East".

He said the Government supports Israel's right to defend itself, while consistently making clear its "grave concerns" over civilian casualties.

The Prime Minister added: "We have consistently called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire."

Lady Warsi's resignation is a serious blow to the Conservatives and will intensify pressure on Mr Cameron, who is out of the country on holiday, to be firmer in his condemnation of Israel.

She is considered an asset to the Tories and has been a prominent member of David Cameron's Government, becoming the first Muslim to sit in the Cabinet. She was Conservative Party chairman and played a large part in the 2010 campaign.

She wrote in her resignation letter: "My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain's national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically."

Lady Warsi said there was also concern in the Foreign Office about the departure of William Hague as Foreign Secretary - he has been replaced by Philip Hammond - and the "way recent decisions have been made".

She announced her departure on Twitter, where she has been increasingly vocal in her condemnation of Israel's actions. Eleven days ago she wrote: "Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children. Whatever our politics there can never be justification, surely only regret #Gaza."

It follows Mr Cameron's failure on Monday to back the United Nations' position over the shelling of a UN-run school where Palestinian refugees were sheltering from the violence, killing at least 10 people.

UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon called the attack "a moral outrage and a criminal act". When asked, Mr Cameron would say only that it was "an appalling loss of life".

There has also been increasing criticism over the 42m of arms exports licences British defence manufacturers have with Israel since 2010 to supply ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called on the Government to suspend the export licences, saying Lady Warsi had raised some important questions over UK policy.

The Government has agreed to review the licences, although has not made any moves towards a suspension.

:: After our Twitter Q&A yesterday with Palestinian teenager Farah Baker, Sky News held a similar Q&A with someone on the Israeli side - schoolteacher Adele Raemer, who lives 2km from the border with Gaza.

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