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Middle East (Fahd Plan)

Volume 15: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1981

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3.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of the failure of the Arab States to agree to the Fahd plan at the Fez summit, he will take steps to encourage Saudi Arabia to enter into direct negotiations with Israel.

The Fahd principles remain on the agenda for the Arab summit, which I understand is to be resumed next year. We encourage all the parties concerned in the Arab-Israel dispute to enter into direct negotiations with a view to a peaceful settlement.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does he agree that the only peace agreement in the Middle East at present is that between Egypt and Israel? Following the Government's failure to gain support for the Venice declaration, would it not be better to press for direct negotiations between Israel and the other Arab States singly, despite recent events, to try to achieve a genuine peace agreement for the whole Middle East?

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I confirm that there is only one peace treaty in operation. On the third part, I have already said that we encourage the parties concerned to enter direct negotiations. On the middle part, however, I do not agree that the Government have failed to gain support for the Venice declaration. It was supported by all our European Community allies.

Is it not highly regrettable that few people will wish to negotiate with Israel unless she desists from her present ridiculous endeavours?

I do not think that what the Israeli Parliament has done in the past 24 hours helps at all.

Is it not absurd to talk about direct negotiations when every facet of Israeli policy does all that it can to make direct negotiations impossible? Would not Israel's major contribution to peace be to stop its proposed annexation of the Golan Heights, to stop its policy of illegal colonisation in occupied Palestine and not to proceed with its illegal proposal to build a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea?

One of the things that Israel wants more than anything else is recognititon of its own secure boundaries. If it wants that, it must extend the same courtesy to others.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us fear that the Israeli decision formally to annex the Golan Heights was designed to stir up trouble among the extremists in the Arab world and thus provide a pretext for Israel not to withdraw from Sinai next year?

I cannot answer for the Israeli Government. I very much hope that that is not so, as the one thing that we are all keen on is that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which provides for the withdrawal of Israel from Sinai, will take effect on 25 April 1982 as agreed.

Does the Mininster agree that part of the background to this which must be taken into account is the dangerous and irresponsible missile attacks launched by the Syrian Government from the Golan Heights on to the kibbutzim below?

Yes. Does the Minister further agree that, apart from being utterly pointless, the annexation is provocative and could imperil the dialogue between Egypt and Israel, which was painstakingly achieved by Mr. Begin himself, by President Carter and by the late President Sadat?

Yes. One of the difficulties in the Middle East for too many years has been too much provocation on both sides. It is not our business to apportion blame to one side or the other. I can only say once again that the most recent Israeli action cannot contribute towards the peaceful settlement that we all seek.