At the last DfID questions on March 16 Desmond Swayne was asked if it was time the UK recognised Palestine as a sovereign state – given that any prospect of a two-state solution was fast disappearing.
It is nearly five years since William Hague started using the formula that the UK agreed it should recognise Palestine, but would do so “at a moment of its own choosing” and “when it would have the most impact”.
Desmond Swayne told the Liberal Democrats’ Tom Brake: “We can only recognise Palestine once. It is essential, therefore, that we do so at a moment where we will have maximum impact on any peace process. That is a fine judgment.”
The UK has already missed the point when it would have had maximum impact – after the collapse of the Kerry peace talks in April 2014 – and had it done so there might never have been a resurgence of violence over the last six months.
However, now it has another chance to “play the recognition card” (to use the Government’s own phrase) when the French President convenes a Foreign Ministers meeting on May 30th in advance of a planned peace conference in September.
The French have said if the talks do not lead to a new peace initiative by the end of this year, they will recognise Palestine. Up to eight other European countries, including Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, are thinking of following suit.