Hague warns time is running out to solve Israeli conflict

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The "window of opportunity" could be closing on a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, William Hague warned yesterday at the end of his first trip here as Foreign Secretary.

Mr Hague had earlier urged the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew a moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not re-enterpeace talks without a moratorium.

The Foreign Secretary said: "I am very worried that the window of opportunity is closing on this possibility. There is a real urgency." Mr Hague said this was the third attempt in a decade to make peace, adding: "If this one does not succeed, there will be a loss of hope."

Mr Hague implied that Britain would prefer a longer moratorium than the 60-day one reportedly sought by the US last month, saying: "We don't want to keep coming back to this issue every few months." But he added: "The UK wants to see a fresh moratorium, the prize here is enormous... The price being asked to get back into those talks... is well worth paying."

The diplomatic rift over arrest warrants sought in the UK against visiting Israeli officials abated yesterday. Mr Hague acknowledged that a threat to halt the "strategic dialogue" between the two countries had been a "little frustrating". But he said that it had reflected a "mistake" by Israel's Foreign Ministry rather than "bad intentions".

A statement issued after Mr Hague's meeting with Mr Netanyahu said that Israel welcomed a "clear commitment" by Britain to amend the law and that the dialogue would resume "very soon".