UK’s Cleverly says calls for ceasefire in Gaza ‘understandable’

RIYADH (Reuters) – British foreign minister James Cleverly said on Thursday calls for a ceasefire in Gaza were understandable but the United Kingdom also recognised that Israel was acting for its own security.

“Well, what we have said, is that calling for a ceasefire is understandable,” Cleverly said during a visit to Riyadh, where he met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

“But what we also recognise is that Israel is taking action to secure its own stability and its own security. Of course, we want to see this terrible situation resolved as quickly as possible,” he added. “The immediate challenge is the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.”

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have been calling for a ceasefire and a lift of the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Cleverly made a stop in the kingdom after taking part in a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Tokyo, which called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

“Well, calling for a ceasefire is the easy point. Actually, establishing peace is much more difficult, and we are committed to establishing peace and sustainable peace that sees Israel secure but also sees security for the Palestinians,” Cleverly said.

The Middle East has been on edge since Hamas fighters rampaged into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people. Since then, Israel has escalated an assault on Gaza where 10,569 people have been killed as of Wednesday, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian officials.

Cleverly said it was not possible to predict how long the Israeli military operations or the security situation immediately afterwards would take.

“Any security responsibility that they (Israelis) take on because of the military operation in Gaza needs to be temporary, and needs to exist only as long as we’re able to move towards a Palestinian leadership that we want to see committed to peace, committed to the two state solution,” Cleverly said.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Mark Potter)