In a speech at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan on the challenges of 2012, Minister Burt told students that the UK was a leading force in the international campaign to stop Iranian nuclear proliferation. He said:
A few weeks ago the British government imposed tough new financial restrictions against Iran. These new sanctions make it illegal for any financial institution in the UK to have any dealings with any institution in Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran. They are the toughest of their kind. And we will build on them, getting others to follow suit. We are working with the EU on sanctions against Iranian oil.
The Minister reiterated the impact of these on the regime and made clear that sanctions were “for now the best tool we have to achieve our shared goal [of stopping the Iranian nuclear programme].” Britain, he said, will continue to pursue a “dual-track approach of increasingly tough economic sanctions while remaining open to dialogue with Tehran.”
In a speech titled “ The UK, Israel and the Region in 2012”, the Minister gave an overview of where Britain sees the region one year on from the Arab Spring. He said that he understood that these regional changes meant that some in Israel were apprehensive about whether now was the right time to make bold decisions on the Middle East Peace Process:
I know that as the world has praised the wave of change sweeping across the region, Israel has wondered if the world has succumbed to optimism… My advice would be: if you want stability, if you want security, if you want peace with your neighbours, and the best relations with the rest of the world, then making a peace deal with the Palestinians is urgent.
Speaking about the Peace Process the Minister welcomed the recent talks in Jordan and made clear that despite difficulties both sides should look ahead in order to achieve a negotiated two-state solution. He reiterated the UK’s view that “Israel will be safer when a viable Palestinian state has been achieved”. Drawing on his visit to the Qalandiya check point and return to Nabi Saleh he make clear that the staus quo cannot continue, stressing the importance of Jerusalem as part of a solution to the ongoing conflict. He reiterated the UK’s position on settlement building and noted how almost weekly announcements has “a real effect on how the world sees Israel”.
Minister Burt praised the bilateral relationship between Israel and the UK, saying that 2011 had been a key year in the relationship following the amendment to universal jurisdiction laws which put “an end to requests for warrants where there is no realistic chance of prosecution”. He announced that final two-way trade and services figures for 2011 were expected to show a 25% increase on the previous year, around $7 billion, and highlighted the launch of the high-tech partnership, to which both governments are fully committed.
Finally the Minister said he wanted the number of Israeli students studying in the UK to increase significantly. He highlighted the positive experience of Jewish students and noted that the UK has four or the top ten universities in the world and research facilities that have helped the UK win more than 80 Nobel prizes for science and technology alone.