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Middle East

Volume 15: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1981

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15

asked the Lord Privy Seal if his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has any plans to visit the Middle East for talks with Palestinian leaders to try and bring about a peaceful settlement of problems in the area.

My right hon. and noble Friend has no plans for a meeting with Palestinian leaders. He remains prepared to meet Mr. Arafat if such a meeting would contribute to the cause of peace.

18.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the next stage of the European initiative on the Middle East.

The Ten remain committed to work energetically for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of the principles set out in the Venice declaration. We continue to impress upon all sides in public statements and private diplomacy the need for recognition by the Palestinians and by Israel of each other's legitimate rights.

19.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the light of the opposition expressed by the Arab Steadfastness Front to the Fahd plan at the Fez summit, Her Majesty's Government now consider the positions of the Arab Steadfastness Front, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as totally hostile to any peace process in the Middle East.

Although some members of the Steadfastness Front are reported to have opposed adoption of Crown Prince Fahd's principles by the Fez summit, they have not all rejected them and we do not regard the front as necessarily opposed to any peace process in the Middle East. We urge all its members, including the PLO, to make clear their support for a settlement peacefully negotiated with Israel.

23.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what prospects he sees for the Fahd plan in view of the outcome of the summit meeting of the Arab League States in Fez.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay).

24.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will report on the progress made during the British Presidency of the European Council of Ministers towards resolving the Middle East conflict.

As we made clear at the outset, the Middle East conflict is too complex a problem for any Presidency to make decisive progress in the six months available. Throughout the British Presidency we have continued to impress upon all sides through public statements and private diplomacy the need for the principles of the Venice declaration to be accepted, and in particular the need for recognition by the Palestinians and by Israel of each other's legitimate rights.

26.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress towards peace in the Middle East.

In recent weeks attention has concentrated on the efforts of the Saudi and other Arab Governments to agree on a negotiating stance and on the need to implement the provisions of the Israel-Egypt Treaty which cover the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Sinai. In our view it also remains vital to make progress on the central question of Palestinian rights. A comprehensive negotiated settlement will need to ensure security for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians. We remain ready to play an active role to this end.

28.

asked the Lord Privy Seal how far the decision taken at the Fez summit affects Her Majesty's Government's policy in the Middle East.

We remain firmly committed to the search for a comprehensive settlement as the basis of the principles set out in the Venice declaration and we continue to call for the mutual recognition of rights by Israel and the Palestinians.