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Gulf Region Security

Volume 515: debated on Monday 13 September 2010

4. What his most recent assessment is of the security situation in the Gulf region; and if he will make a statement. (14520)

The security situation in the Gulf remains delicately balanced, with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Arab-Israel relations and the risk of Yemen becoming a failed state being the most destabilising factors. We are working closely with our allies in the region as well as key partners such as the US to find a diplomatic solution to all these issues, but it is clear that they will not be resolved quickly. I welcome my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary’s Gulf initiative, which recognises increased engagement in the region as a key foreign policy priority. It makes it clear that there are significant economic as well as national security interests in the Gulf, and that the presence of UK forces there is vital in order to reassure our allies and act as a stabilising influence.

My hon. Friend will share my concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme. What action is being taken to ensure that the UN sanctions are enforced effectively to deter Iran from future developments?

I certainly do share my hon. Friend’s concern, as I am sure do all Members. The Government of Iran are facing increasing economic and political pressure as a direct result of their failure to address international concerns about their nuclear programme. Alongside sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council resolutions, Iran has also faced autonomous sanctions from the EU, the US, Canada, Australia and Norway. Others will follow soon, and many major companies have decided to stop business with Iran. Iran has much to gain from taking the necessary steps to restore international confidence in its nuclear intentions and will face tougher and tougher sanctions if it fails to do so.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he comment further on the Iran Government’s increasingly provocative approach in their military and nuclear programme and their apparent disregard for international opinion, which has been evidenced in recent times?

There is no doubt that Iran is behaving provocatively. Our policy towards Iran remains that we wish to address a broad range of concerns, of which nuclear proliferation is undoubtedly the foremost. Iran’s support for terrorism, its negative role in the wider middle east region and its record on human rights all remain matters of serious concern. We remain committed to diplomacy, dialogue and engagement, but that does not prevent us or the international community from maintaining pressure about legitimate concerns. A positive future for Iran is possible, based on its leadership recognising its obligations to its own people, neighbours and the international community. That is the future we want to see Iran turning to, in order to gain the respect it seems so greatly to crave.

Has the Minister made any assessment of when, at the current rate of uranium enrichment, there is likely to be a breakout capability? In those circumstances, how optimistic is he that sanctions will be effective in stopping the seemingly relentless drive by the Iranian regime towards having a nuclear weapon?

A whole range of time scales is being looked at, although I cannot say that anything is precisely clear in that respect. The situation is monitored very closely by the international community, ourselves included. If there is any sign of development of the sort the hon. Gentleman describes, we will undoubtedly ramp up our response accordingly.