Restraint needed to avoid further destruction in the Middle East - Sir Keir Starmer

We support the defensive action taken by the UK, alongside our international allies, against the Iranian attacks on Israel, and we welcome the Prime Minister’s call for restraint.

Once again, we all salute the professionalism and bravery of our armed forces. We also support the RAF planes being sent to the region to bolster Operation Shader. Their efforts are vital for a safer world.

There can be no doubt that the attack perpetrated by Iranian forces at the weekend has left the world a more dangerous place.

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It targeted innocent civilians, with a clear intent to destabilise the region. It must be wholly condemned by all, but let us also be clear that a full-scale conflict in the Middle East is in no one’s interest.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. PIC: Jordan Pettitt/PA WireLabour leader Sir Keir Starmer. PIC: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. PIC: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

It is a path that can only lead to more bloodshed, more instability and the unleashing of forces that are beyond the ability of anyone to control.

The combined defensive action was a success and, because of that, lives were saved. As a result, escalation is not inevitable. In repelling the attack, Israel showed strength and courage. It must now show the same strength and courage to de-escalate.

That has to be the primary objective, and that is the responsibility of all sides and every partner.

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We must be resolute and united in our support for the collective security of Israel, Jordan and other partners in the region.

But tensions remain very high. We must proceed calmly, carefully and with restraint, because if diplomacy takes centre stage—and it must—we also need to be clear that diplomatic premises should not be targeted and attacked.

That is a point of principle, but as the condemnation from our G7 allies rightly notes, Iran’s response this weekend was unprecedented—a further step towards the destabilisation of the region and the risk of escalation.

Nobody should be, or is, under any illusion: this is a regime that sponsors terror across the Middle East and beyond, that murders and represses its own people and supports Putin’s war efforts in Ukraine.

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While there is no justification for Iran’s actions, we cannot be naive to the fact that one of the drivers of tension in the region is the ongoing war in Gaza.

Six months on from the horrific Hamas terror attack, hostages remain separated from their families, thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed, and now more than a million people face the imminent threat of famine—so I urge the Government again to use every ounce of diplomatic leverage that we have to make sure that aid to Gaza is unimpeded and drastically scaled up.

Alongside that, we reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire, for Hamas to release hostages and for a return to a diplomatic process that can rekindle the hope of a two-state solution.

It is right that we condemn Iran’s action, it is right that we work with others to defend the security of our allies, and it is right that we seek the end of conflict in Gaza.

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But this is a moment for restraint, because escalation will only lead to further destruction; and, for the sake of all those still caught in the horror and violence, that must be avoided.

An adapted version of a speech by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in the House of Commons.

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