LONDON: Arab ambassadors have urged Prime Minister Liz Truss to backtrack on “an illegal and ill-judged” plan to move the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that it could jeopardize a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, The Guardian reported on Friday.
The comments were made in a private letter sent before her trip to the UN last week. It was signed by all Arab states, including those that signed the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel.
Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot said: “Any embassy move would be a blatant violation of international law and the UK’s historic responsibilities.
“It undermines the two-state solution and inflames an already volatile situation in Jerusalem, the rest of the occupied territories, and among communities in the UK and worldwide. It would be disastrous.”
It is the understanding that some of the states most inclined to the accords are those particularly concerned, believing that the accords could be thrown into disrepute by the claim that they paved the way for the embassy move.
Given that the pending UK-GCC FTA is seen as central to Truss’s foreign policy for the region, any worries that this may be thrown into doubt could cause a backtrack.
Allies in Europe have also questioned the move, letting the UK know that they consider it unwise, while others have privately speculated that Truss’s decision is based as much on her desire to be perceived as a “disruptor” as it is anything to do with her close ties with Israel.
A former British diplomat told The Guardian: “She seems to think she should ape (former President) Donald Trump (who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018). The difference is that the US is big enough to get its way in the Middle East. The UK is not.”
The former diplomat added: “If the UK shifted its embassy it would … damage British interests in the Arab world.”
Truss pledged to the Conservative Friends of Israel during her leadership campaign that she would open a review into the location of the UK Embassy, instituting the review last week during a meeting at the UN with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Details of how the review is being conducted inside the Foreign Office have yet to be made public.