David Miliband de­nies vis­it­ing fam­ily in West Bank set­tle­ment


A RE­PORT that For­eign Sec­re­tary David Miliband took time out to dine with rel­a­tives at a Jewish set­tle­ment in the West Bank threat­ened to over­shadow his visit to the re­gion this week.

The re­port, stren­u­ously de­nied, was broad­cast on Is­raeli Army Ra­dio and comes in the run-up to the An­napo­lis peace sum­mit next Tues­day. The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has made clear its op­po­si­tion to the build­ing of set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert has pledged a set­tle­ment freeze.

A spokesman for the Bri­tish em­bassy said that, al­though Mr Miliband had rel­a­tives in Is­rael, he dined with them in Tel Aviv. “The For­eign Min­is­ter was in Jeri­cho on Satur­day to meet Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity lead­ers. He cer­tainly was not at any West Bank set­tle­ments.”

One of the rel­a­tives, David Lan­dau, an in­surance agent, said he was at the Tel Aviv dinner. “We are very proud of the Milibands, even if we do not al­ways agree with their po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions on Is­rael,” he said.

Mr Lan­dau added that most of Mr Miliband’s rel­a­tives in Is­rael are Ortho­dox, in­clud­ing some West Bank set­tlers. “But he has no di­rect con­nec­tion with them,” he in­sisted. Both Bri­tish and Is­raeli of­fi­cials de­clared that Mr Miliband’s visit — the first since he be­came For­eign Sec­re­tary — had been pro­duc­tive.

Af­ter meet­ing him, Is­raeli For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni de­scribed talks about the sum­mit and on the threat posed by Iran as “very fruit­ful”.

Mr Miliband said that the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the sum­mit “don’t come along very of­ten”, and that it was very im­por­tant that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity pro­vide “prac­ti­cal and po­lit­i­cal sup­port for the two par­ties”.

In a blog on the For­eign Of­fice web- site, Mr Miliband de­scribed his trip to Ra­mal­lah — the first dur­ing his visit — where he met Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas and Prime Min­is­ter Salam Fayyad. En­ter­ing Ra­mal­lah, he said: “It is hard not to no­tice the se­cu­rity, or the dust.” He found the two lead­ers to be “se­ri­ous and en­gaged”.

He later told Par­lia­ment that Bri­tain would be “un­stint­ing” in its sup­port for a peace­ful two-state so­lu­tion. He said that the UK was ready to of­fer al­most £250 mil­lion to bol­ster the econ­omy in the West Bank and Gaza, pro­vid­ing that there was “tan­gi­ble progress on se­cu­rity” and a “frame­work doc­u­ment on a two-state so­lu­tion”.

The For­eign Sec­re­tary chats to UJIA gap-year and youth move­ment teenagers dur­ing his visit

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