LONDON — Foreign Secretary William Hague warned "belligerent" Israel to tame its rhetoric and said unrest in Arab countries may hinder the peace process, in comments published on Wednesday.
Hague told the London Times that recent popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan could undermine the search for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged the United States to take action.
"Amidst the opportunity for countries like Tunisia and Egypt, there is a legitimate fear that the Middle East peace process will lose further momentum and be put to one side, and will be a casualty of uncertainty in the region," Hague said.
"Part of the fear is that uncertainty and change will complicate the process still further," the foreign secretary, who is on a three-day trip to north Africa and the Middle East, told the newspaper.
"That means there is a real urgency for the Israelis and the US. Recent events mean this is an even more urgent priority and that's a case we are putting to the Israeli government and in Washington."
The former Conservative party leader reacted strongly to Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu's call to his nation to be ready for "any outcome" and his promise to "reinforce the might of the state of Israel."
"This should not be a time for belligerent language," Hague argued. "It is a time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East peace process."
Israel's stance on settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories is "disappointing" and peace may become "impossible" within a few years, Hague said.
He also voiced concern over possible conflict between the Jewish state and Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah following last month's collapse of the Lebanese government.
"The scale of any military conflict that may happen between Israel and Hezbollah is growing, because of the growth of armaments in the area," Hague warned.
Hague spoke while travelling to Jordan from Tunisia, where he met members of the country's interim government, including Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi.