Response to open letter

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the open letter to me published in the Courier on August 29.

Like everyone, I have been shocked and saddened by the events in Gaza over recent weeks and I have responded to correspondence from constituents on the issue. To be clear, I have always been in favour of a two-state solution, and hope that a permanent ceasefire can be achieved. I utterly condemn the violence on both sides.

I would like to point out that I am not a member of either Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) or the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) as alleged. In late 2010 and early 2011, I joined delegations of both CMEC and CFI to the Middle East. I would also like to point out that these organisations have diverse opinions and perspectives on the region.

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I do not consider visiting the region with these organisations makes me a member of either group or signals my endorsement of their positions. However, I believe it is very important to gain as detailed a view of the situation as possible. On these visits, I have met Israelis and Palestinians in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In addition, in my role as a member of the International Development Select Committee, I have visited Jordan and Lebanon. I have always believed in examining both sides of an issue and I have taken the advantage of basing my opinions on first hand evidence gathered on these visits.

Trips to the Middle East have been invaluable for me and for others to gain a better understanding of the continued tension and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I know that the UK Government, alongside other countries, remains committed to providing diplomatic assistance to achieve a permanent end to the violence. Clearly, there is still more to be done. We need to do all we can to help achieve a lasting ceasefire and, subsequently, a lasting peace. Which, after all, is what we should all be striving for.

Chris White, MP for Leamington and Warwick

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