Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Cable warning over Israel exports

Vince Cable said the exports would be reviewed in the event of further hostilities
Vince Cable said the exports would be reviewed in the event of further hostilities

Licences for the export of equipment which could be used by Israeli forces in Gaza will not be suspended unless there is a fresh outbreak of violence, the Government has announced.

A review of existing licences found 12 were for components which could be part of equipment used in Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces and Business Secretary Vince Cable said they would be suspended if the ceasefire broke down.

The review found that the vast majority of exports currently licensed for Israel are not for items that could be used by forces in Gaza, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) said.

Mr Cable said: " We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met.

"In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

"No new licences of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Force during the review period and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease."

The licences include components for military radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks, Bis said.

The position announced by the Lib Dem Cabinet minister falls short of the immediate suspension of arms exports his party had called for.

The Lib Dem policy, championed by party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has faced opposition from Tory ministers within the Cabinet.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: " It is no secret that there has been a difference of opinion in the coalition Government on this issue.

"Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have been very clear for some time both privately and publicly that they wanted to see arms export licences to Israel suspended because of the situation in Gaza.

"This is a coalition and this is as far as we have been able to reach in collective agreement with the Conservatives.

"It has taken a significant amount of time and effort from Liberal Democrats in Government to get us this far.

"What is clear now is that we have agreement that if the current ceasefire ends in Gaza, which we all hope it doesn't, and there was a resumption of significant hostilities, then there would be an immediate suspension of those arms export licences to Israel that give cause for concern."

The licences do not include the single licence granted in February 2013 for the export of up to £7.7 billion of cryptographic equipment or any components that form part of the Iron Dome system protecting Israel from the rocket attacks launched by Hamas.

Tory former Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi, who resigned in protest at the Government's policy on Gaza, said the decision not to suspend the licences immediately was "morally indefensible".

In a post on Twitter she said: "I understand the arms export licences will only be suspended IF hostilities resume !! So more people have to die before our criteria is met.

" The #UK Govt position to ONLY suspend IF hostilities resume is 'morally indefensible'. Surely the destruction to date meets the criteria!"

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