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Foreign Ministers (Meeting)

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what were the results of the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Nine on political co-operation held on 20 November.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs met his colleagues in the Nine in the framework of political co-operation in Brussels on 20 November. The Foreign Ministers discussed Rhodesia, Iran, and Euro/Arab Dialogue and proposals for a conference on disarmament in Europe.Ministers of the Nine made the following statement on Rhodesia:

"The Foreign Ministers of the Nine warmly welcome the progress made at the Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House. They commend the parties to the negotiations for the spirit of compromise they have shown and they recognise the role played by other African leaders who have encouraged the efforts to achieve a settlement.
The Ministers note the agreement reached on an independence constitution providing for genuine majority rule, and on arrangements for the holding of free and fair elections and for the administration of Rhodesia until these take place.
The Conference has now moved to its final stageā€”the effort to agree on proposals for a ceasefire. The Foreign Ministers of the Nine note that the British Government has put forward proposals to this end. They hope that agreement will quickly be negotiated on the basis of these proposals so that the present destructive conflict will be brought to a speedy end. This would clear the way for elections and bring about the emergence of a free and independent Zimbabwe to take its rightful place as an accepted member of the world community."

On Iran, Ministers made the following statement:

"Ministers of the Nine meeting in Brussels on 20 November considered the latest developments in Iran. They expressed their deep concern at the fact that the Iranian authorities have not fulfilled their obligations under the Vienna Convention and have not given appropriate protection to both the staff and the premises of the American Embassy in Tehran. They have already made their concern known to the Iranian authorities on several occasions through diplomatic channels.
At their meeting today, the Ministers recalled that in 1976 the European Council expressly condemned any attempt to exert pressure on governments by the taking of hostages. They consider that whatever the nature of the dispute between Iran and the United States the continued holding of diplomatic personnel of the Embassy of a foreign State as hostages and the threat to put them on trial is a breach of international law and as such must be rejected by the Governments of the Nine and the international Community as a whole. The Ministers reject this violation of international law and call upon the Iranian Government to release all the hostages."

In discussion of the Euro/Arab dialogue Ministers confirmed the importance they attached to the dialogue and expressed their wish to see it go forward. They agreed that contacts should shortly be made with the Secretary-General of the Arab League at Tunis to examine practical ways of pursuing work undertaken in particular raeas of the dialogue. They agreed at the same time that steps should be taken to ensure that all countries concerned should be kept properly informed of developments. The Ministers expressed their hope that conditions would soon exist which would enable all Arab countries to take part in a comprehensive dialogue with the European Community.

Ministers also considered next year's meeting in Madrid to review progress on the Helsinki conference on security and co-operation in Europe (CSCE). In this context they discussed the proposals made by President Giscard in 1978 for a conference on disarmament in Europe. They reaffirmed their view that it was essential to maintain an overall balance between military and other aspects of security in the CSCE process. Taking into account the French proposals, they agreed that the Nine should work for the adoption, at the Madrid meeting, of a mandate for further negotiations within the CSCE framework on militarily significant and verifiable confidence-buiding measures applicable to the entire European continent. They agreed that the process should take account both of the security interests of member countries and of negotiations already taking place on other aspects of European disarmament.