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Middle East

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 11 March 1975

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asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to visit the Middle East.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Did my right hon. Friend note that the discussions which recently took place in Beirut between Lord Carrington, as the political representative of the Conservative Party, and Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, were followed by a terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv hotel, in which 16 people died? Will he confirm that is not Labour policy to negotiate with terrorist organisations?

In fairness to Lord Carrington, there is no connection between the terrorist outbreak and his visit. Also in fairness to the noble Lord, he did not go there to visit Yasser Arafat. He went there to visit Heads of State. I think I am right in saying that while in Beirut Lord Carrington was asked to meet Yasser Arafat.

Since some of us have had the good opportunity of getting to know Yasser Arafat and his policies, and of appreciating what a social democrat he is, is it not time, since the Prime Minister's contacts in the Middle East seem to be solely Israeli ones, that he should make some effort to get to know some of the Arab Socialist leaders?

We tolerate the hon. Gentleman, but it is a bit much to ask us to tolerate his friends as well.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the assurance asked for by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) that it is not the policy of the Government to negotiate with terrorist organisations?

The Government stand ready to do anything they can to help in this difficult situation. No one wishes to do or say anything which would make it more difficult.

That remark was not very helpful. He should remember he is Leader of the House— and deputy leader of our party, God help us.

Certainly, the Government condemn terrorist attacks, from whatever quarter they come.