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Middle East

Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 2 December 2014

7. What steps his Department is taking to help bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to peace talks. (906374)

9. What recent assessment he has made of the likelihood of a two-state solution emerging in the middle east. (906376)

The UK is fully supporting US-led efforts, working with the Egyptians, to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to negotiations aimed at achieving a lasting peace. We are also working with European partners, especially France and Germany, to support that US-led process.

I thank the Minister for his answer. The point that I want to make was possibly covered earlier, but it is so serious that it is worthy of repetition. Illegal Israeli settlements are causing friction, to say the least, and they are a roadblock in the peace process. What is the Secretary of State doing with his EU counterparts to challenge this and to make sure that there are no roadblocks?

As I said earlier and have said on previous occasions in the House, the settlements are illegal. We condemn them, and every time a new one is proposed, we make that view known to the Israeli Government. But I have gone further than that, and I repeat today that we have to be clear that we will not allow the fact of illegal settlements to define the shape of an eventual settlement. We cannot allow one of the parties to this conflict to build themselves into a position to dictate the eventual peace. Settlements can be built and settlements can be removed, but every settlement that is built is illegal and it cannot be allowed to stand immovably in the way of the peace process.

The Secretary of State has talked about the preference for a successful peace process, but actions speak louder than words. The 1,000 acre land grab around Bethlehem in September surely indicates that Israel does not really have the serious intention of allowing a two-state solution. Given that, should we not be thinking about how we are going to recognise Palestine?

This is not an excuse, but a great deal of domestic politics is involved in this issue. The 1,000 acres that my hon. Friend mentioned have not, as I understand it, been developed in any way; it was simply a designation. It is unacceptable, but it is a political statement, and we have to make sure that it does not stand in the way of an eventual two-state solution.

Order. I am afraid that colleagues will have to see what opportunities are presented during topical questions. Progress today has been incredibly slow, and we have a lot of questions to get through.