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Middle Fast

Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 24 October 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next intends to meet the Foreign Minister of Israel to discuss the middle east peace process.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit Israel to discuss the middle east peace process.

I met the Israeli Foreign Minister on 16 October. We had a thorough discussion of middle eastern issues. I have no firm plans to meet Mr. Levy again, but we agreed to stay in closer contact in future.

Did my right hon. Friend congratulate the Israeli Government on their actions in deactivating the Basra reactor? Without that action, the bloodthirsty butcher of Baghdad would have been able to threaten the whole world with a nuclear disaster.

I take my hon. Friend's point, but I am not sure that the world would be a safer place if everybody acted as Israel did in that respect. Nevertheless, I take note of what I believe is my hon. Friend's point for the future. Iraq has obligations of great importance under the non-proliferation treaty and it is of crucial interest to the whole community—not just to Israel—that those obligations should be respected.

Given the disastrous results of the Foreign Secretary's attempts to clarify the Government's position with regard to the Palestinian problem when he was in Jerusalem recently, will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to make a clear and unambiguous statement to Parliament on the Government's commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the west bank and the Gaza?

As the hon. Lady knows, we have never had such a commitment. What we are saying and have said for a long time is that the Palestinians have the right to self-determination and that that right can be exercised only in the context of a negotiated settlement, which must also include provision for the security of Israel within secure borders. That has been the position for a long time, and I restated it in Jerusalem. I am sorry that, for one reason or another, the way in which it came out prevented Palestinian leaders from meeting me a week ago as I had hoped. That would have balanced my visit to Israel.

When my right hon. Friend met the Israeli Government did he raise with them the horrendous and appalling massacre of hundreds of Lebanese Christians by the Syrian army? If he did not, will he join me in inviting the United Nations to pass a resolution condemning that outrage to prove to the world and the parties in the middle east that it is not the one-sided, biased organisation that it sometimes appears to be?

We made it clear with regard to the killings on Temple Mount, the later killings in Jerusalem, and what happened in the Lebanon, that we condemn all acts of violence of that nature. They are separate problems and neither will be resolved by political violence.

After his visit to Israel, does the right hon. Gentleman feel that he now has a better understanding of the legitimate sensitivities and anxieties of that democratic country? If Britain is to help in the peace process, it must be seen to be even-handed and balanced. That means continuing its opposition to the Arab boycott. If he believes that that is right, will he speak to the Secretary of State for Energy about the reported compliance of National Power with that boycott, which I am sure he would regard as intolerable?

One of the purposes of my visit to Israel was to get into close touch with not only Israeli Ministers but people such as Mr. Peres and Mayor Kollek. Israel is a democratic society and I hope that within the democratic debate in Israel there is a growing realisation that its security cannot satisfactorily rest on a regime of occupation. It is neither a just nor a sustainable basis for the security of Israel, about which Israelis, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, are rightly anxious and sensitive.

On the hon. and learned Gentleman's second point, we deplore boycott efforts and campaigns of that nature. How specific British enterprises respond to them is not a matter for me.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the presence of the Iraqis in Kuwait is totally unacceptable, as is the presence of the Israelis in parts of the Lebanon, Syria and Jordan?

Yes, in parts of Jordan. The presence of both forces is unacceptable for exactly the same reasons—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends have had their say and now they should let someone else have theirs. They are in defiance of the United Nations resolutions against invading and occupying the territory of their neighbours. Will my right hon. Friend also confirm my understanding of the position? The reason why we, the Americans and others are in Saudi is that we were invited there by the Saudi Government, in the same way as the Syrians are in the Lebanon because they were invited there by the Lebanese Government. Am I correct in that assumption?

The right answers to both the problems which my hon. Friend mentioned have been set out in Security Council resolutions. In the case of Kuwait the resolutions are very clear because they respond to a clear act of aggression and require the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops. In the case of Arab-Israel, another set of Security Council resolutions, in particular Nos. 242 and 338, require the sensible reconciling of Israel's need for security—a particularly sensitive matter because of its geography and recent history—and the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. Those two things must be reconciled. They can be reconciled only through negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.

It is not sensible to draw too many exact comparisons between the positions in Syria and Kuwait but my hon. Friend is right that originally, whatever one's view of their later activities, the Syrians went into Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese Government.