British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Jerusalem, November 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Jerusalem, November 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

The British foreign secretary warned of the dire consequences of letting the current turmoil in the Middle East continue unabated Thursday, calling on the US to lead a renewed drive for peace of the type not seen in decades.

“2013 will be a crucial year in the Middle East,” William Hague said at the Menzies Research Centre in Sydney, where he delivered the John Howard lecture. “We could see a perfect storm of crises converging if the conflict in Syria continues, the Middle East peace process remains stalled, and if Iran will not enter into meaningful negotiations over its nuclear program.”

Hague said US President Barack Obama should take charge and launch an intense drive for peace matching that of the last major Israeli Palestinian breakthrough in 1993.

“Before long, a two-state solution could be made impossible by facts on the ground,” Hague said. “We recognize the immense obstacles to the peace process, not least of all the role of Hamas in Gaza. But still, we believe that it must be a priority for President Obama’s re-elected administration to launch a new effort to start the peace process, greater in intensity than anything seen since the Oslo Accords.”

“This is a tall order, but the situation is urgent and the consequences of failure extremely grave,” he added.

Hague also said the international community should be prepared to step up its response in Syria, including providing “life-saving help and assistance to the Syrian opposition””

“2013 cannot be the year in which another 60,000 Syrian civilians perish,” he said.