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Persian Gulf

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will pay an official visit to the Persian Gulf.

My right hon. Friend has no plans to visit the Gulf at present. I am proposing to visit the Arab States of the Gulf myself early next month.

In view of the political and economic importance of the Gulf area to this country, and in view also of the deep dismay engendered in the Gulf by the remarks attributed to Dr. Kissinger earlier this month that the United States did not wholly exclude the possibility of circumstances in which it might intervene militarily in the area, will the Minister reconsider the possibility of a visit by the Foreign Secretary to the Gulf States. If he went he could carry with him the view of our Government that we have nothing but good intentions towards that part of the world.

I had better go first myself before I recommend my right hon. Friend to follow me the week after. I can assure the hon. Member that I shall be having wide-ranging talks in Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. My visit will deal with political issues, including those referred to by the hon. Member, and economc questions. In so far as there are points which can be elaborated, I am certain that that will be done during this visit. I shall find it of great advantage to exchange views with countries which have had traditional friendly relations with us.

Will my right hon. Friend make clear to the Sultan of Oman that there is a considerable body of opinion in Britain which regards the war in Oman as being totally unjustified and which believes that British support in that war should be completely withdrawn?

I am not quite certain how widespread that support is. I have no doubt that the Sultan has seen the Questions which have been put by my hon. Friend, but I think that most people in this country who know much about what is going on in Oman recognise the great advances which are being made in social and economic development in the interests of the people under the present Sultan, and I think that we should give them every encouragement.

May I fully support my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) in what he said and go a little further?

May I ask whether, in addition to making visits, the Foreign Secretary will extend invitations to leaders in the Gulf and other areas which are so immensely important to us to visit this country?

Most of the leaders of the five countries which I shall be visiting in the Gulf have paid visits to this country during the past 12 months and have had valuable talks during their stay here.