Prospect talks to William Hague, the foreign secretaryby Bronwen Maddox / April 24, 2013 / Leave a comment
William Hague, the foreign secretary, speaks to Prospect‘s editor Bronwen Maddox © Sophia Schorr-Kon
The most striking point of William Hague’s hour-long discussion with Prospect was his declaration that “a crucial period” in trying to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear programme will come after the presidential election, set for 14th June. “If, after that, there are further negotiations, and again there is no reasonable progress made, then many countries will conclude that no progress is ever going to be made,” he said.
Speaking after the failure of talks in Kazakhstan, and the remarks by John Kerry, US secretary of state, that “talks cannot go on forever,” the foreign secretary added: “I think then the pace of this crisis over the Iranian nuclear programme is going to pick up” and that “the second half of this year… is becoming a crucial time.”
Those remarks put new emphasis on setting a deadline for Tehran. And the leading role that Britain is taking (as it did under the Blair and Brown governments), in orchestrating sanctions and pushing for more rapid talks is a first answer to the awkward questions that now loom over foreign policy. Are we now “Little Britain,” with a role in the world shrunken by the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, by cuts in the armed forces, collapsing banks and recession? Does UK foreign policy now amount to little more than an exhortation to the US to do something?
With the exception of the European Union—where Hague, like David Cameron, could be accused of wishful thinking—he makes a good case that a clearer role for Britain is now emerging, after the diffidence that followed a decade of many setbacks. And after campaigning with Angelina Jolie in the Congo against sexual violence in war, yielding him a rare presence on showbiz websites, he may have found a basis for the “values-based” foreign policy which he has championed but which tripped up more than one of his predecessors. On Syria, which he said “is heading for the worst humanitarian catastrophe so far in the 21st century,” Britain has said there “is a strong case” for lifting the EU embargo on selling arms to the opposition, which expires at the end of May. On Israel, he warned that the “two-state solution” [of a separate nation for Palestinians] was “only just alive,”…