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Middle East

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has any plans to visit the Middle East.

My right hon. Friend hopes to do so before long.

While the Lord Privy Seal is in that region, will he take the opportunity to raise the question of the human rights of the Palestinians, especially as we hear so much about this subject at the present time? Does the Minister agree that we need action rather than words to ensure that these people are once again able to live in their homeland and govern themselves?

As we have often said in recent months, we agree that the Palestinians have political rights. In any settlement that has any chance of enduring, those rights have to be accepted and recognised.

Is my hon. Friend aware that if he were to visit the Middle East today he would find among our friends grave concern that some positive and effective action should emerge from the EEC Foreign Ministers meeting on Monday with regard to the position of Iran? Is he further aware that if that meeting fails, that failure will be trumpeted out, literally in Iran and other countries as being a failure by America to achieve the support of its Allies, which will seriously demean and weaken the Western Alliance as a whole?

I accept the first part of my hon. Friend's question. There is no special magic about Monday's meeting, except that it provides the first opportunity for the Foreign Ministers of the Nine to meet and, we hope, to reach at least a first step decision along the lines indicated by my hon. Friend.

Does the Minister agree that the brutal and barbaric attack on the kibbutz at Misgav Am last week by a constituent body of the PLO makes it plain that the Foreign Secretary was sadly wrong when he said that that organisation was no longer a terrorist body?

We condemn absolutely the attack on the Misgav Am kibbutz to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred. Ae he knows, we do not recognise the PLO. It is an umbrella organisation which includes different bodies, some of which are still associated with terrorism of that kind and others of which are working through political and diplomatic channels. It is important to encourage the second tendency and to condemn the first.

Does my hon. Friend accept that until the PLO has totally, clearly and definitely renounced any intention of destroying Israel it will be hopeless to demand, and useless to expect, the Israelis to have any kind of meeting with it?

In the end, I think that the two things will have to occur more or less at the same time. The Palestinians will have to accept Israel's right to exist within secure and recognised frontiers, and the Israelis will have to accept that the Palestinians have political rights, too.

Has the Minister noticed today the announcement of the creation of a new Arab force, including the PLO? Does not that indicate to him that there is no change in the PLO's stance towards the integrity of the State of Israel?

We have noticed the announcement of the force. Let us wait and see what becomes of it in practice.