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British minister apologizes for not disclosing meetings with officials in Israel
08 November 2017, 12:42 | Sheila Mcguire
UK minister apologizes for unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials
Priti Patel, the global development secretary, also said that the meeting and others with senior Israeli officials had been conducted without the knowledge of the British Foreign Office and apologised for failing to follow "usual procedures".
But it emerged on Tuesday morning that Ms Patel discussed changing Government policy and handing taxpayers' money to humanitarian projects linked to the Israeli army in the highly disputed area of the Golan Heights held by Israel.
She said they had also been attended by Stuart Polak, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel and an influential pro-Israel lobbyist.
That she didn't report the meetings - which took place over two days - has sparked fears that Patel used her "holiday", in August, as a cover to surreptitiously discuss official United Kingdom government business with Israeli politicians and representatives of Israeli organisations.
Patel apologized for failing to comply with the usual procedures that oblige ministers to inform the British Foreign Office before doing official business overseas and said she regretted her statement that Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was aware of the visit in advance.
Embarrassed by the revelations of the 12 meetings she held in 12 days during a "family holiday" in Israel, Patel attempted to diffuse the incident insisting last week during comments to the Guardian that the British Foreign Secretary "Boris [Johnson] knew about the visit".
Priti Patel is facing fresh calls to resign after failing to turn up to answer questions from MPs about her secret Israel meetings.
"I am publishing a list of who I met. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway", Patel said in her apology. Patel's "startling admissions" raise doubts about whether she can continue in her role - with Labour also demanding that she resign, the Daily Mail says.
Burt confirmed that Foreign Office officials only became aware of Patel's visit to Israel on August 24. [Patel] would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case. The Foreign Office, it said, was "clear that United Kingdom interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit". "I regret it and apologize for it".
"The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to look at how the code can be made clearer and tightened", a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Liberal Democrat worldwide development secretary Baroness Sheehan said Ms Patel had "gone rogue" and should be sacked.
They also discussed the Israeli domestic political scene, India, Netanyahu's then-forthcoming visit to London to mark the centenary last week of the Balfour declaration, and "prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the United Kingdom on development and humanitarian issues".
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