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Occupied Territories

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 11 June 2003

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If he will make a statement on humanitarian needs in the west bank and Gaza. [118381]

Two and a half years of violence and closure have caused rapid economic and social decline. Many families have endured long periods without work or income, and many Palestinians now depend on food aid for their daily survival. Humanitarian assistance is helping to alleviate immediate suffering, but only a just political settlement will resolve the situation.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but one of the areas that is often overlooked is the issue of the new security fence. A World Bank report has shown that as many as 10,000 people have already been affected by disruption to water supplies and agricultural land. Some 95,000 Palestinians will be affected by the time the wall is completed. Will he please turn his attention to the humanitarian needs of those people who, once again, face dispossession in their own land?

My hon. Friend is right. The building of the fence is a symptom of the problem. It is estimated that it will leave 290,000 Palestinians on the wrong side and will cut communities in two and separate people from their livelihoods. That reinforces the point that I made earlier: only a political solution will deal with the problems that the Palestinian people are experiencing.

I welcome the Minister back to this brief, but I wish to place on record the fact that we would have liked the Secretary of State to be a Member of this House. However, I congratulate him on his promotion.

The real progress now being made on the road map for peace in the middle east has taken Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen to positions that their supporters might never have imagined being achieved. We need to support those who share the common ground of wanting peace against the extremists on both sides who would like to derail it. Does the Minister agree that the Government must do all in their power to buttress that delicate process, and that our aid must strengthen the negotiators' fragile position?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words—not least because they give me the opportunity to congratulate my noble Friend Baroness Amos on her much-deserved appointment to the post of Secretary of State. We are looking forward to working with her. I agree with the hon. Lady when she talks about the importance of supporting the road map process. As I am sure she will recognise, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has played a very significant role in supporting that work, as has President Bush.