Cameron in Israel to talk peace, Iran
Published Wednesday 12/03/2014 (updated) 14/03/2014 19:28
British Prime Minister David Cameron outside 10 Downing Street
in central London, on February 27, 2014.(AFP/File Carl Court)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a two-day visit during which he will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss the peace talks and Iran.
It is Cameron's first official visit since the Conservative leader took over as premier in 2010.
After landing at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Cameron went straight to Jerusalem to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks focusing on "Iran's military nuclear program, the peace process and bilateral ties," an aide to the Israeli leader said.
On Thursday, he was to meet President Mahmoud Abbas in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said.
Cameron's visit comes as the US-led peace negotiations struggle to make headway before an April 29 deadline, with US Secretary of State John Kerry pushing both leaders to accept a framework proposal that would extend the talks to the year's end.
Ahead of his arrival, Downing Street said Cameron would focus on the opportunities that a peace agreement would bring.
"Secretary Kerry’s efforts to secure agreement on a negotiating framework that could lead to peace are entering a critical phase. And I’ll be using my visit to support those peace efforts," Cameron was quoted as saying before leaving London.
He said he would encourage both leaders "to take the final difficult steps towards peace" which could offer both sides a future that was both secure and prosperous.
But Netanyahu was expected to use the meeting to discuss Iran and was likely to show Cameron what he believes is proof of Iranian involvement in a weapons ship seized in the Red Sea last week which was allegedly being sent to Palestinian militants in Gaza, Israeli public radio said.
He was also to impress on Cameron on the need for Europe to push the Palestinians "to change their current behavior" in the peace talks, the Jerusalem Post newspaper said. Israel has blamed Palestinian "intransigence" for blocking progress in the negotiations.
During the afternoon, Cameron will address the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, before meeting with President Shimon Peres. He will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Cameron and Netanyahu will hold a joint news conference at 1730 GMT after which they will dine together.
The British leader, who is accompanied by a delegation of business leaders, wants to use the visit to strengthen business ties with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Downing Street said.
Cameron had been scheduled to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in mid-February but stayed in London to deal with winter storms which battered the country.