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Un Under-Secretary General

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken in the United Nations to protest at the treatment of the United Nations Under-Secretary General by the Israeli Government during his visit to the occupied territories in January; and if he will make a statement.

None, Sir. This is a matter for the United Nations Secretary General. We called on all parties to facilitate Mr. Goulding's visit, which was mandated by United Nations Security Council resolution 605.

Was not the Under Secretary General of the United Nations treated very badly by the Israeli authorities during his visit to Israel, and did not the army go into the camps and disrupt them during his visit? Does the Minister agree with Mr. Goulding, who said that the Palestinians have every right to be angry about the conditions in which they are forced to live and that a political solution is needed? Will the Government work towards that solution under the auspices of the United Nations and start that by opening up a dialogue with the PLO?

I certainly agree with that comment of Mr. Goulding's, and I was able to tell him that personally when I saw him in New York on Friday. The key point about Mr. Goulding's visit is to try to make progress on the report that the Secretary General has issued following on it. The report makes two points clear. First, there is a need for immediate alleviation of the problems in Gaza by way of the palliative measures set out in the report — enhancing the relief organisation's work and mitigating the more oppressive aspects of the occupation. Secondly, as I have already said, there is a need to get the peace process moving again.

Would it not help our credibility with Israel in these matters, and help to solve the humanitarian problems in Gaza, if the Government stopped signing annually the United Nations resolution that calls specifically upon the state of Israel not to rehouse the refugees in Gaza in decent accommodation?

My hon. and learned Friend, for whom I have great respect, knows that it is not as simple as that. He knows that we vote as we do because of the manner in which it is sought to enforce rehousing—an element of compulsion is involved — and because afterwards adequate dwellings that are better than other dwellings in which people who cannot afford to move out of the camps live are then bulldozed down by the occupying forces. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot help but regard the argument sometimes used by the Israeli authorities to justify their position as rather flimsy.

In view of the Israeli Government's arrogant disregard of international conventions and of the appalling conduct of Israeli troops, will the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest to his right hon. and learned Friend — and my right hon. and learned Friend — the Foreign Secretary, that he should raise with his EEC colleagues the need to consider the suspension, or indeed, abrogation, of EEC trade and financial agreements with Israel?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the issue is to be considered again by the European Foreign Ministers at their meeting with King Hussein next week and we must await the outcome of that.

On the European Community arrangements, it is obviously desirable, so far as possible, to keep political considerations out of purely trading issues. The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. and learned Friend took the lead in proposing that there should be direct access to the European Community for goods from the occupied territories, because that is a practical way of expressing our desire to see conditions in the occupied territories improve. It wilt also be known that the Commission, while negotiating the mandate for Israeli access to the Common Market, required from the Israeli authorities some undertakings on the manner in which they would carry out those access arrangements. Therefore, although we have not gone anything like all the way with the hon. Gentleman, I hope he is satisfied that there is an element of what he asks in what we are doing.