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Britain Steering Toward Israel in Mideast Policy to Follow War

February 7, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd seems to be steering Britain toward a postwar Middle East policy that is closer to Israel’s thinking than in the past.

Hurd outlined his ideas, which are supported by Prime Minister John Major, to his fellow ministers of the European Community in Brussels this week.

At the same time, Defense Secretary Tom King lauded Israel’s “tremendous restraint” in face of what he said was Saddam Hussein’s illconceived attempt to draw it into the war.

Future British policy, Hurd has indicated, would support more flexible arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, taking account of Israel’s security fears and Palestinian demands for more freedom.

But the possibility of a Palestinian state is no longer mentioned. Hurd said the Palestine Liberation Organization has “undermined its credibility by acting as an apologist for Iraq.”

Britain also seems to have moved away from the idea of an international peace conference to settle the Arab-Israeli dispute, an approach always opposed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his government.

Hurd met Wednesday with the Syrian foreign minister, Farouk a-Sharaa, in London and will fly to Cairo over the weekend to discuss his ideas for the postwar period with the Egyptian leadership.

Egypt and Syria are the principal non-Gulf Arab states in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Iraq.

The British foreign secretary apparently envisages a major role for Egypt after the war. He expects it to provide the bulk of a new, mainly Arab peacekeeping force in the region, allowing American and British forces to withdraw.

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