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Middle East: Armed Conflict

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason the UK did not participate in the recent vote on the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva; and if he will make a statement. (296389)

We have made it absolutely clear that while aspects of the Goldstone report were flawed it raised very serious issues that we want to see addressed. We also made it clear that the resolution did not adequately address Hamas' actions and Israel's right to protect its citizens.

We did not vote because we were in the middle of detailed discussions about three key issues: the establishment of an independent inquiry, access for humanitarian aid to Gaza and how to restart the peace process. We were pursuing these at the highest level, between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, French President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. The vote was called in the middle of those discussions and we did not wish to compromise the detailed work on those fundamental issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on (a) violent incidents in Jerusalem and (b) the numbers of people injured in such incidents. (296499)

We are extremely concerned by recent disturbances in Jerusalem. We are unable to confirm the numbers of people injured, but our consulate general in Jerusalem is monitoring the situation on the ground extremely closely.

We call on all parties to show restraint, and refrain from provocative actions in order to prevent the situation escalating. The EU presidency made this clear to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities on 26 October 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on investigations by the Israeli government in relation to the recent conflict with Palestine. (296500)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had numerous conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as with key Arab, European and US partners about the need for proper investigations of abuses alleged to have been committed by both sides during the Gaza conflict. I raised the need for such investigations with my Israeli counterpart on 27 October 2009. Our officials in Tel Aviv, Geneva, New York and elsewhere have also discussed the issue with their counterparts.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps at the United Nations he (a) has taken since July 2009 and (b) plans to take in the next six months to seek to prevent (i) weapons and (ii) funds from the government of Iran being sent to terrorist groups in (A) Afghanistan, (B) Iraq, (C) Gaza and (d) Lebanon; and if he will make a statement. (296573)

The Government fully support UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1747, paragraph five of which calls upon Iran not to supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory any arms or related materiel, as well as other relevant UNSCRs including 1701 and 1860.

Following a number of interdicted shipments, we assess that Iran continues to act in breach of that Resolution by its ongoing supplying of weapons and funding to militia in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas and Hezbollah. This is unacceptable and further undermines international confidence in Iran.

We will continue to work through the UN and with international partners to urge Iran to comply with its UN obligations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has (a) taken during the last six months and (b) plans to take during the next six months to tackle the shipment of weapons and funds from Iran to (i) Afghanistan, (ii) Iraq, (iii) Lebanon and (iv) Gaza; and if he will make a statement. (296574)

We take Iran’s support for militia in Iraq, the Taleban in Afghanistan, Hamas and Hezbollah seriously and will continue to work with international partners to urge Iran to play a more constructive role in the middle east region. We will continue to support the full implementation of existing UN Security Council Resolutions which prohibit Iran from supplying or selling arms or related materiel.

Iranian support to illegitimate armed groups in Iraq (including supply of weapons, training or funding) is unacceptable.

We have successfully interdicted some Iranian weapon shipments in Afghanistan which has led to temporary reductions in activity. We will continue to work with the Afghan Government to confront this.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the level of smuggling of (a) arms and (b) other material into Gaza from (i) Egypt and (ii) other countries; and if he will make a statement. (296612)

The level of smuggling of other material into Gaza is significant, but difficult to assess. Reports from Gaza suggest that a wide variety of goods which cannot be imported any other way are entering through the tunnels, and are then available on the open market. Arms are undoubtedly part of this trade. According to a recent UN report approximately 100,000 litres of diesel and 100,000 litres of petrol are transferred into Gaza via the tunnels each day.

We will continue to urge action to prevent arms smuggling and press the Israeli authorities to ease border restrictions into Gaza and allow the passage of essential humanitarian aid and reconstruction material. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stressed this point most recently in his joint letter, on 16 October 2009, with President Sarkozy to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the effectiveness of the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank in preventing terrorist activity in Israel; and if he will make a statement. (296625)

Israel is entitled to build a security barrier to protect its citizens from acts of violence. But the barrier should be confined to Israeli territory and not encroach on occupied territory. In some places, the barrier breaks up Palestinian territory, cuts Palestinian farmers off from their land and divides Palestinian communities, separating people from their families. We have particular concerns about the route of the barrier near East Jerusalem.

In recent years, there has been a drop in the number of terrorist attacks in Israel. The political context is clearly an important factor. The barrier, which remains far from complete, may have played a role. There has also been a notable improvement in security provided by the Palestinian Authority Security Forces in the West Bank in line with Palestinian commitments under the Roadmap.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to seek to secure the release of missing Israeli servicemen reported to be held by (a) Hezbollah, (b) Hamas and (c) Iran; and if he will make a statement. (296650)

In August 2009, I met Gilad Shalit’s father during my visit to Israel and I reaffirmed, both privately and publicly, our call for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit immediately and without conditions.