British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, putting himself on a collision course with Israel, said Monday he was determined to visit a controversial Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.
The Israeli government earlier Monday threatened to exclude the European Union from Middle East peacemaking if Cook went ahead with the visit to Har Homa, a hilltop known to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.But Cook, whose government holds the rotating EU presidency, said Israel had nothing to fear from the planned visit.
"I am anxious to see Har Homa for myself. I would have thought that it would be in the interests of both parties - including the government of Israel - that I were informed by seeing the situation for myself," Cook told reporters en route to Cairo.
"I do want to take this opportunity to say quite clearly that our approach has been impartial, that we do want to make progress on the peace process with both parties," he said.
In London a spokesman for Tony Blair said the British prime minister was fully behind Cook.
"The foreign secretary has to have some input into where he goes," the spokesman said.
A senior Israeli official said in Jerusalem that a fresh request was made of Cook on Sunday night to cancel the visit to the settlement.
"If we are put in the corner by a unilateral decision of the British presidency to go ahead and visit Har Homa, then obviously all the good things that we are envisaging doing with Europe will not happen," the official said.