Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived early at Downing Street, meaning his British counterpart Theresa May was not there to greet him. Having entered her office alone, he returned outside minutes later for the customary handshake.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived early at Downing Street, meaning his British counterpart Theresa May was not there to greet him. Having entered her office alone, he returned outside minutes later for the customary handshake.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged "responsible nations" to join new sanctions against Iran on Monday during a visit to London, but Britain defended a nuclear deal sealed between major powers and Tehran.

Netanyahu's visit comes a week before the Israeli premier is expected to visit Washington to meet US President Donald Trump, who openly said Washington should improve relations with Tel Aviv. Before departing for London, Netanyahu said he wants to boosts relations with both the US and the UK.

Ahead of his talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu said other nations should follow Trump's imposition of sanctions against Iran following a ballistic missile test.

"Iran seeks to annihilate Israel. It seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the West, it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation," Netanyahu told May ahead of their meeting.

"That's why I welcome President Trump's assistance of new sanctions against Iran. I think other nations should follow suit, certainly responsible nations. I'd like to talk to you about how we can ensure that Iran's aggression does not go unanswered."

Iran's missile test last week alarmed Netanyahu, who vehemently opposes the 2015 international agreement that imposed curbs on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

May's spokeswoman said the British leader had repeated her backing for the nuclear deal with Tehran - which is strongly opposed by both Netanyahu and Trump - but said there was a need to "rigorously monitor" Iran's behaviour. "The prime minister made clear that we support the deal on nuclear that was agreed," the spokeswoman told reporters when asked whether Britain was considering joining new sanctions.

"What happens now is that needs to be properly enforced, and we also need to be alert to Iran's pattern of destabilising activity in the region."

Trump, with whom May's government wants close ties, is a critic of the deal.

TRT World's Simon McGregor-Wood has more details from London on Netanyahu's visit.

Israel-Palestine

Earlier the spokeswoman said May would also tell Netanyahu that continued Israeli settlement activity in occupied lands captured in the 1967 Middle East War on which the Palestinians hope to create independent state undermined trust in the region. Yet Britain softened its tone towards Israel ever since May took office.

On Monday, small groups of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters gathered outside Downing Street and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, said May's stance on settlements was not good enough.

"Theresa May must make clear to the Israeli prime minister that the British government will stand unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people," said Corbyn.

Last month Britain said it had reservations about a French-organised Middle East peace conference in Paris and did not back the final communique by 70 countries which reaffirmed that only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its stance angered many EU members.

In December, Britain also scolded then US Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech criticising Israeli policy.

"Strong and close friends"

May told Netanyahu that Britain was a "strong and close friend of Israel", and highlighted their co-operation in science, trade and security.

They agreed to set up a working group to develop trade ties both before and after Brexit, the spokeswoman said.

Netanyahu's talks on Monday got off to an awkward start as he arrived before May was at her official Downing Street residence to greet him. Having entered her office alone, he came back outside minutes later for the customary handshake.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies