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Middle East

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the potential impact of the proposed E1 settlement development on progress on the road map towards peace in the Middle East. (98361)

We are concerned about Israeli practices in East Jerusalem, including settlement expansion, the route of the barrier and restrictions on movement. These threaten the prospect of a two-state solution. We are also concerned about the E1 area east of Jerusalem, where construction of the new police station has already begun. We continue to monitor the situation closely and have made our concerns clear to the Israeli authorities.

21. To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made on the Middle East peace process. (98369)

The Temporary International Mechanism is paying allowances to health workers and the poorest Palestinians. We are working with US Security Coordinator General Dayton to improve Palestinian security and improve the Karni crossing point.

The Quartet has said it will play a more active role. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited the region in September. We welcomed the commitment from Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to meet without conditions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the Middle East; and if she will make a statement. (95356)

During my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories on 9-10 September, he discussed the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government with President Abbas on 10 September. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear our readiness to work with any Government pursuing a programme based on the three Quartet principles—recognition of Israel, commitment to agreements previously signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Palestinian Authority with Israel, and renunciation of violence. He also met Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on 10 September. They discussed the conflict in Lebanon and the way forward for the Middle East Peace Process.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stressed that we need

“to get to the point where we have a political process in place that allows us to deal with the issues to do with economic reconstruction, to do with institutions, to do with security, and also to make sure that as you say the rights of the Palestinian people to a decent and full life are properly respected”.

In this context, he welcomed both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert agreeing to meet without any pre-conditions.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Lebanon on 11 September as a demonstration of his support for Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora’s Government and his commitment to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701. During that visit he announced the UK’s commitment of £40 million to Lebanon this year, including on humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. He also offered UK assistance for the training and equipping of the Lebanese armed forces to enable them to extend their control throughout the whole of Lebanon. And he gave his personal commitment to re-energising the Israel/Palestine peace process for the benefit of the region as a whole.

I also refer the right hon. Member to the written ministerial Statements I made to the House on 13 September 2006, Official Report, columns 128-130WS and 10 October 2006, Official Report, columns 14-16WS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the UK Government have taken following the Israeli Defence Force's transfer of the Rachel’s Tomb neighbourhood to the Israeli civilian authority at Jerusalem. (97519)

We have taken no specific action relating to the Israel Defence Force's transfer of the Rachel's Tomb neighbourhood to the Israeli civilian authority, but we raised our concerns, at official level, about the serious impact on the citizens of Bethlehem of Rachel's Tombs' inclusion in the barrier. We believe the barrier's route should be on or behind the Green Line, and not on occupied territory. Construction of the barrier on Palestinian land is illegal. We also remain concerned by settlement activity in and around the area surrounding Rachel's Tomb. We will continue to raise our concerns about this area with the Israeli Government.