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Euro-Arab Dialogue

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the progress of the European-Arab dialogue; and if he will make a statement.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's contribution in the dialogue between the EEC and the Arab League.

The second meeting of the General Committee of the Euro-Arab Dialogue took place in Tunis from 10th to 12th February. The atmosphere was positive and frank and both sides were satisfied with the outcome. The Government played their full part in the Nine's preparation for the meeting and, as holders of the Presidency, the United Kingdom led the Community delegation.

When we bear in mind the enormous potential advantages that could arise from Euro-Arab co-operation, has not progress been regrettably slow? Is it not time to remove one obstacle at least, namely, the question of Palestinian representation, and should not the EEC accept the reality of the situation as the United Nations has done?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the British Government attach great importance to this dialogue. At the recent meeting valuable work was carried out on the transfer of technology, commercial and cultural co-operation, protection and encouragement of investment, and labour and agricultural projects. The remainder of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question raises a wider issue.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House in regard to the EEC statement—which was agreed at a meeting in London on 29th January but which was not made public—that the Government exerted their influence to try to make that statement public—and if not, why not?

I hope that this afternoon I made our position plain on the dialogue. The British Government welcome the dialogue, and we feel that it has made a valuable contribution to Euro-Arab relations, to which both sides remain committed.

Will the Minister assure the House that the EEC will take up the question of the boycott of trade on the same lines as the United States now appears to be following?

The hon. Gentleman will have noted what my right hon. Friend has already said on that subject.

I greatly appreciate what the Foreign Secretary has said, not only this afternoon but many times, and his unequivocal denunciation of the Arab boycott. Will he take up with his European colleagues the question of how such blackmail can be made unremunerative by international action?

My right hon. Friend has made his position absolutely clear. The way forward is one that we shall consider together with our colleagues in Europe.