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East Jerusalem

Volume 522: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2011

The hon. Lady will know that the status of East Jerusalem is fiercely contested, and that this raises political tensions. The United Kingdom takes the view that East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law, which is why we have called on Israel to cease building settlements, and to stop the evictions and demolitions. Such actions only obstruct the peace process, under which Jerusalem’s final status will be settled.

I thank the Minister for his response. Given that he accepts the illegality of settlements on occupied territory, does he plan to support the draft UN Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate end to settlement building?

The draft resolution has not yet come forward for a vote. We are conscious of the terms in which it has been drawn, and the House will be well aware of our views on settlements. We hope to see a return to direct negotiations in which all these matters can be properly considered in order to achieve the settlement that we all want.

Recent leaks confirm that the Israelis and the Palestinians were making significant progress on agreeing on how to share Jerusalem as part of a negotiated agreement. What is the Minister saying to both sides to encourage them to resume negotiations?

The hon. Lady takes a close interest in these matters, and she will appreciate that the resolution to the question of Jerusalem’s status will come about only through a negotiated settlement. We are working very hard with both sides. I was in Israel and Palestine recently, talking to Ministers there, as was my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. We have also been working with other partners behind the scenes to try to ensure that there are no obstructions to a return to negotiations, and that the settlement issue is not a barrier to those discussions. There are other issues relating to borders, refugees and Jerusalem that must be discussed, and the sooner the parties get together, the better.