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Middle East

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

The Petition of the Brecknock Peace and Justice Group, and others,

Declares great concern at the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to do everything in his power to work for a lasting and just peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians; to suspend all military aid, co-operation and arms sales to both sides in the conflict until a lasting peace agreement is concluded; and to press both the European Union and the United States of America to adopt similar policies.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Roger Williams, Official Report, 1 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 134 .]

[P000337]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

The UK remains committed to the resolution of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis and we continue to focus our efforts on a negotiated agreement that can bring a lasting peace to the region. We are friends of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we believe that this close relationship gives us the opportunity to talk openly and frankly to both sides to more effectively encourage them towards peace. A comprehensive resolution, covering all of the issues (including - but not limited to - borders, compensation, a just solution for refugees, and the status of Jerusalem), is the only way to bring about a lasting, and fair, peace.

We do not believe that placing an arms embargo on either side would be productive to bringing about a settlement. The UK recognises that Israel faces real security threats and has the right to defend herself. We believe the best way to influence both sides is through the continued dialogue that our strong relationship allows. We believe that a lasting peace can best be achieved through negotiations and confidence-building on all sides, not through the threat of sanctions.

In relation to arms sold by the UK, the UK is committed to maintaining one of the most rigorous and transparent arms export control systems in the world. We rigorously assess all export licence applications, on a case-by-case basis, against the Consolidation European Union (EU) and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

The assessment takes into account the prevailing circumstances and UK government policy, at the time of application. The criteria make clear our commitment to assess the risk of exports being used for internal repression or external aggression. The UK has refused export licences to Israel in the past, and a small number of licences have recently been revoked following a review of exports after the recent conflict in Gaza.

We continue to work with both the European Union and the United States of America to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Facilitating peace in the Middle East remains a high priority for the UK. With the support of our international allies, we will continue to pursue vigorously a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution, involving a viable Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security.