Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

And he added: "The Secretary of State has been clear with Number 10 that on no other occasions while a minister has she organised meetings with foreign government ministers outside the normal channels while on holiday".

However, when reports of the meetings had first surfaced, Patel told the Guardian "Boris knew about the visit".

Labour's shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said there had been a "clear breach" of the ministerial code, while shadow global development secretary Kate Osamor called for an investigation, describing Patel's apology as "a desperate last-ditch save her job".

Patel said she met with senior Israeli figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Foreign Ministry' Director General Yuval Rotem and opposition leader Yair Lapid. "It is not about who else I met", she said, "I have friends out there".

The International Development Secretary was accompanied to almost all of her meetings by honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, Lord Polak.

In a statement, the minister went on to apologise for setting up and reporting the meetings "in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures".

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A statement issued by the Department for International Trade yesterday stated that Ms Patel had asked her officials to "commission work on humanitarian and development partnership between Israel and the United Kingdom, and on disability", when she returned to London.

He said: "She also had meetings with a number of charities and I find it utterly unsurprising that the worldwide aid secretary would want to talk to charities while she's on holiday in a particular area about whether or not we can use the British aid budget to diminish the humanitarian problems there". "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it". The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was under way.

On returning from her trip, Patel commissioned Dfid work on disability and humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK.

Other political parties are also under scrutiny.

Patel has faced criticism and calls for her to resign or be sacked over the meetings.

That sparked fury in the Foreign Office, as Britain has long opposed Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights where its Syrian refugee camps are, and her move was blocked. The Telegraph also reported that Patel had suggested to Netanyahu that the United Kingdom should give aid to the Israeli army. "If she doesn't now resign, then Theresa May must immediately refer the issue to the Cabinet Office for a full investigation".

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