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Middle East: Armed Conflict

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the relevance of Article 2 of the EU Israel Trade Association Agreement to actions by Israel in Gaza. (248407)

[holding answer 19 January 2009]: EU-Israel relations are an important part of our engagement with Israel which has at its core the goal of achieving lasting peace in the middle east. Current discussions on the EU-Israel relationship include enhancing discussion of human rights issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received reports of the use of British-supplied military vehicles by Israel in its invasion of Palestinian territories in Gaza. (248785)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the state of Israel concerning reports of Israel’s alleged use of white phosphorus and cluster bombs in their military operation in Gaza. (249088)

[holding answer 20 January 2009]: We are very concerned about reports of white phosphorus ammunition being used by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza. We have made this clear directly to both the Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv.

I have also made clear to the House that Gaza is an exceptionally densely populated area where white phosphorus used as an air burst is liable to cause particularly horrific injuries to non-combatants. We consider such use in these circumstances unacceptable.

We are not aware of allegations that cluster bombs have been used in Gaza.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Government had with the Governments of (a) Syria, (b) Lebanon, (c) Turkey, (d) Egypt, (e) Jordan and (f) Saudi Arabia on the situation in the Middle East between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009. (249172)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke at least once to his counterparts in all those countries between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Government had with Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair on the situation in the Middle East between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009; and on what date the first such discussion took place. (249174)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been in regular contact with the Quartet Envoy throughout this crisis.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what common policy positions were taken by EU members in relation to Israel’s military action against Gaza between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009. (249198)

European Union Foreign Ministers met on 30 December 2008 and agreed a statement setting out the EU’s stance on the conflict. The EU presidency also issued a number of statements on behalf of the Union.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he was first informed of Israel’s intention to launch (a) an aerial and (b) a ground attack on Gaza; and whether the Government of Israel provided such information. (249199)

The increasing tension between Israel and Hamas was very clear in early December 2008. With rocket attacks increasing and the Hamas declaration that it would not renew the ceasefire on 19 December 2008, there was clearly a risk of Israeli military action. We did not however have specific prior warning of Israel’s intention to launch the aerial operation.

Similarly, while we were well aware of the likelihood of an Israeli ground operation to follow up the Israeli air operation, we were aware of preparations being made and we were discussing the conflict frequently with the Israeli authorities in our efforts to secure a ceasefire, we had no specific prior warning of Israel’s intention to launch the ground operation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what formal representations he has made to the Government of Israel on the proportionality of its use of force in Gaza between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009. (249202)

As I told the House on 15 January 2009, Official Report, column 396: “the Israeli action has been disproportionate”. We have consistently urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties and from the outset have called in public and private for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the Government has taken to encourage the establishment of a Palestinian State. (249513)

We are at the forefront of international effort to support peace negotiations and build the institutions of a future Palestinian state. We have pledged £243 million over three years to support the Palestinian Authority and people.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many letters his Department has received from members of the public on the conflict in Gaza. (249520)

The number of letters received from members of the public increases constantly and is now approaching 1,000. We have already replied to over 600 letters of these letters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the principles of the Quartet are; which countries in the Middle East have agreed to them; and if he will make a statement. (250221)

The Quartet Principles are recognition of Israel, acceptance of previous Palestinian Liberation Organisation agreements with Israel and rejection of violence. We support the Quartet in asking these things of Hamas as a basis for engagement.