UK government ‘ignoring’ suffering of Palestinians caught in Gaza war, says Iraqi president

Iraq’s president has said he is “extremely disappointed” with the UK government’s response to the war in Gaza – accusing it of “ignoring” the suffering of Palestinians.

“The Palestinian problem has become an international problem,” President Abdul Latif Rashid told Sky News.

“And, recently, the suffering of the Palestinian people and the attacks on Gaza, especially on civilians and children, is beyond anything which human rights can accept, and I think it is the duty of the international community to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

The president was speaking to Sky News from the Presidential Palace in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in a rare interview with Western media.

President Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid. Pic: Sky News
President Rashid has accused the UK of allowing the suffering of Palestinians to continue. Pic: Sky News

His words are likely to resonate with not just the British government but the public, coming from a president who spent many years studying in Britain at a range of universities including Manchester, Liverpool, Southampton, Exeter and Cambridge.

During a break between meetings and events, including preparations for International Women’s Day, the president spoke frankly about what he suggests is a dereliction of duty by the British and American governments.

“Extremely disappointed. Extremely disappointed,” he said in reply to a question about the British government’s role.

“The demonstrations on the streets of London and other places in the United Kingdom show that, even in the parliament, the argument is on ending the suffering of the Palestinian people, but the prime minister and the British government itself ignored all these requests – and they still continue in not recognising the state of the Palestinian people.”

Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Rafah. Pic: Reuters
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children face starvation in Gaza. Pic: Reuters

The UK has abstained in United Nations votes calling for a ceasefire resolution and refused calls to suspend arms exports to Israel.

However, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said this week that the UK’s patience was running “thin” with Israel over its failure to ensure more aid enters Gaza and has called for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

Watch the full interview with President Rashid on The World With Yalda Hakim at 9pm tonight on Sky News.

President Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid during his interview by Sky's Alex Crawford. Pic: Sky News
President Rashid asked Sky’s Alex Crawford why the West had not imposed a ceasefire. Pic: Sky News

US making ‘all sorts of excuses’ for Gaza sufering

Mr Rashid also directly criticised America – one of the country’s key allies – for using its veto in the UN Security Council to prevent a ceasefire resolution.

“They allow it to continue and they make all sorts of excuses for the continuation of the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said.

The Iraqi president urged the international community to back the fresh call by the South African government to the UN’s top court for emergency measures against Israel, which it says is breaching the measures already in place.

In its application, South Africa warned that Palestinians in Gaza were facing starvation and asked the court to order all parties to cease hostilities and release all hostages and detainees.

Israel has described South Africa’s legal action as a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation” of the international court and denies the lawsuit’s allegations.

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue to do “what is necessary” to defend itself after the 7 October attacks by Hamas. He said at the time: “Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people.”

But Mr Rashid continued: “We in Iraq think genocide has been committed and human rights, and every aspect of them, has been abused – especially killing children.

“Some of the children are under one year old.

“What crime have they committed to be attacked by bombs, by tanks, by whatever means the attackers use on the Palestinian people?

“We still don’t know how many children have been killed in thousands – and the crimes… I don’t think the international community in recent years has ever seen crimes like what has happened in Gaza.”

A Palestinian child reacts near the site of an Israeli strike on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip
More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, health ministry figures in the Hamas-run enclave indicate. Pic: Reuters

‘We are not happy about attacks’

Mr Rashid also did not hold back in condemning the US drone strike in the Iraqi capital a few weeks ago, which killed a senior Commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a US-proscribed terror group which is also a branch of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an Iraqi state security agency composed of dozens of armed groups, many of them close to Iran.

And the president angrily lashed out at the same Iran-backed armed groups based on Iraqi soil who have launched multiple attacks against US troops based inside and near Iraq.

“We are condemning all these attacks and we are not happy about any attacks from Iraq or on Iraq,” he said.

Palestinians react as they sit at the site of an Israeli strike in Rafah.
Pic: Reuters
Palestinians at the site of an Israeli strike in Rafah. Pic: Reuters

The situation in Gaza was having ripple effects across the world, the president added.

He said: “The Gaza problem has affected many countries, not only in the Middle East, even outside the Middle East.

“It has affected Yemen. It has affected Lebanon. It has affected Syria. It has affected the Red Sea and it has affected even shipping.

“So it has affected the economical situation, commercial situation and, at the same time, the political situation in the area.

“We are very much concerned. And until this problem is solved completely for the better future, I’m afraid the tension in the region will remain.”

The president suggested the only way forward was a ceasefire – and in the longer term, recognition of a Palestinian state.

He added: “Why don’t you blame the people who don’t force to impose a ceasefire? Because they [all the attacking armed groups] say if you have a ceasefire, all the actions will stop; whether it’s in Gaza, whether it’s in Palestine, whether it’s in Lebanon, whether in Yemen, whether in the sea or on the land.

“They [Israel] want to continue attacking Gaza, but everyone else just watches it?

“I mean, that’s not possible. That’s not possible.

“The main thing which is really important is to have a permanent ceasefire and try to solve the Palestinian problem, to give them self-determination on their own land by their own state.”