Labour leader Keir Starmer
Labour leader Keir StarmerReuters

British Labour leader Keir Starmer said on Sunday there should be a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, setting out his stance before parliament is expected to debate the issue, Reuters reported.

Starmer is keen to present a united front to voters, but the conflict in Gaza has tested that unity.

Nearly a third of his lawmakers defied him last year to back calls for an immediate ceasefire and the party had to withdraw support for a candidate over his comments about Israel earlier this month.

His comments Sunday come days before the Scottish National Party is expected to bring a motion to parliament to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Addressing the Scottish Labour conference, Starmer said, "What we all want to see ... (is) an end to the fighting not just now, not just for a pause, but permanently. A ceasefire that lasts ... that is what must happen now."

Starmer had previously taken a stance similar to that of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and called for a "sustainable ceasefire". His aides said his latest words did not amount to a change in position, according to Reuters.

The British Prime Minister last month responded to an MP's call for the UK to support a ceasefire in the war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, saying at the time that for his government to support a ceasefire, certain conditions would have to be met.

“Hamas would have to agree to release all the hostages, Hamas would no longer have to be in charge of Gaza and the threat of more rocket attacks from Hamas into Israel would have to end, and the Palestinian Authority – boosted with assistance would need to return to Gaza in order to provide governance and aid," said Sunak.