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UK’s Sunak slams ICC arrest warrant for Netanyahu

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LONDON — Rishi Sunak took direct aim at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it sought arrest warrants against both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

Arguing there is no “moral equivalence” between the two sides in the wake of the October 7 attacks on Israel, the British prime minister insisted Tuesday that the court’s move would make “absolutely no difference” to wider peace in the Middle East.

ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan filed applications for the arrests on Monday against the two leaders, as well as the commander of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Israel’s defense minister.

Khan said he had “reasonable grounds to believe” that the named leaders on both sides had engaged in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, triggering a furious reaction in Israel, and condemnation from the United States. But European leaders’ reactions have been more mixed.

Siding firmly with the U.S. position, Sunak told reporters on trip to Vienna, Austria: “This is a deeply unhelpful development. Of course it is still subject to a final decision, but it remains deeply unhelpful nonetheless.”

“There is no moral equivalence between a democratic state exercising its lawful right to self defense and the terrorist group Hamas. It is wrong to conflate and equivocate between those two different entities.”

“What I am very clear is that this will make absolutely no difference in getting a pause in the fighting, getting aid into the region, or indeed the hostages out.”

The prime minister’s words mark a clear distinction with Britain’s opposition Labour party. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said Monday that the U.K. and all parties to the Rome Statute, which underpins the ICC, “have a legal obligation” to comply with its warrants.

Lammy added arrest warrants “reflect the evidence and judgment of the prosecutor about the grounds for individual criminal responsibility.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday labeled the warrant “outrageous,” arguing that “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Ben Munster contributed reporting.

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