Iran and Israel - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:01 pm on 15 April 2024.

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Photo of Lord True Lord True Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 6:01, 15 April 2024

My Lords, I intend no inconvenience to the House and those taking part in the debate in coming to the Chamber at this time. I hope that it is understood that the position was agreed by the usual channels. I will repeat the Statement made by the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, before I start, I would like to express my deepest sympathy, and, I am sure, that of the whole House, on the death of your father. He was a true giant not just of this House but the other place too”.

I am not supposed to go aside from the Statement, but I think we would all agree with that.

“I also want to express my solidarity with our Australian friends after the horrific and senseless attacks in Sydney in recent days. Our thoughts are with all those affected.

On Saturday evening, Iran sought to plunge the Middle East into a new crisis. It launched a barrage of missiles and attack drones over Iraq and Jordan and towards Israel. The scale of the attack, and the fact that it was targeted directly at Israel, are without precedent. It was a reckless and dangerous escalation. If it had succeeded, the fallout for regional security and the toll on Israeli citizens would have been catastrophic. But it did not succeed.

In support of Israel’s own defensive action, the United Kingdom joined a US-led international effort, along with France and partners in the region, which intercepted almost all the missiles, saving lives in Israel and its neighbours. We had already sent additional RAF Typhoons to the region as part of our existing operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. I can confirm that our forces destroyed a number of Iranian drones. We also provided important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for our partners. Our pilots put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent and preserve peace and stability. I spoke to the RAF earlier today. They are the best of the best and I know the whole House will join me in expressing our gratitude.

With this attack, Iran has once again shown its true colours. It is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard and on further destabilising the Middle East. Our aim is to support stability and security because it is right for the region and because, although the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has a direct effect on our security and prosperity at home. We are working urgently with our allies to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. We want to see calmer heads prevail, and we are directing all our diplomatic efforts to that end.

Yesterday I spoke to my fellow G7 leaders. We are united in our condemnation of this attack. We discussed further potential diplomatic measures, which we will be working together to co-ordinate in the coming days. I will also speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu later today to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation. All sides must show restraint.

Our actions reflect our wider strategy in the Middle East, which I have set out in the House previously. I believe there are three vital steps to putting the region on to a better path. First, we must uphold regional security against hostile actors, including in the Red Sea, and we must ensure Israel’s security. That is non-negotiable and a fundamental condition for peace in the region. In the face of threats such as those we saw this weekend, Israel has our full support.

Secondly, we must invest more deeply in the two-state solution. That is what we have been doing over the past six months, including working closely with the Palestinian Authority, so that when the time comes, it can provide more effective governance for Gaza and the West Bank. It is significant that other regional partners actually helped to prevent a much worse attack over the weekend. It reminds us how important the attempts to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours really are, and it holds out precious hope for the region.

Thirdly, the conflict in Gaza must end. Hamas, which is backed by Iran, started this war. It wanted not just to kill and murder but to destabilise the whole region. This weekend, it rejected the latest hostage deal, which offered a road to a ceasefire. It is Israel’s right, and its duty, to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend its security.

I want to be clear: nothing that has happened over the past 48 hours affects our position on Gaza. The appalling toll on civilians continues to grow: the hunger, the desperation and the loss of life on an awful scale. The whole country wants to see an end to the bloodshed, and to see more humanitarian support going in. The recent increase in aid flows is positive, but it is still not enough. We need to see new crossings open for longer to get in vital supplies.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the three British aid workers who were killed in Gaza: John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson. They were heroes. The children of Gaza whom they were risking their lives to feed need a humanitarian pause immediately, leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire. That is the fastest way to get hostages out and aid in, and to stop the fighting. Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live in peace, dignity and security, and so do people across the entire region.

In conclusion, Saturday’s attack was the act not of a people but of a despotic regime, and it is emblematic of the dangers that we face today. The links between such regimes are growing. Tel Aviv was not the only target of Iranian drones on Saturday; Putin was also launching them at Kyiv and Kharkiv. Which was the sole voice speaking up for Iran yesterday, seeking to justify its actions? Russia.

The threats to stability are growing, not just in the Middle East but everywhere, and we are meeting those threats, time after time, with British forces at the forefront. It is why our pilots were in action this weekend. It is why they have been policing the skies above Iraq and Syria for a decade. It is why our sailors are defending freedom of navigation in the Red Sea against the reckless attacks of the Iran-backed Houthi militia. It is why our soldiers are on the ground in Kosovo, Estonia, Poland and elsewhere, and it is why we have led the way in backing Ukraine, and we will continue to back it for as long as it takes. When adversaries such as Russia or Iran threaten peace and prosperity, we will always stand in their way, ready to defend our values and our interests, shoulder to shoulder with our friends and our allies. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.