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Iran/Iraq Conflict

Volume 490: debated on Thursday 19 November 1987

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3.12 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have conducted any negotiations with any other nation to agree a common policy towards the Gulf conflict.

My Lords, we have played a leading role in discussions of Iran/Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. The conflict is also discussed regularly within European Political Co-operation and bilaterally with a range of countries.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I acknowledge that there are formidable practical difficulties in getting full-scale liaison. Does he agree that there seems to be better co-operation from the USSR, and that the British and American naval presence in the Gulf work very well together? Does he further agree that, although the difficulties are enormous, the Government do not regard them as insuperable? Will we try to move more closely towards unified action by all those involved in the Gulf?

My Lords, there is already wide international consensus on the need to end the conflict in the Gulf—I am sure the noble Lord is well aware of that—and to support Security Council Resolution No. 598. That has been demonstrated best by the Arab support that came forward at the Amman Summit. We have co-operated closely with our European partners since the conflict began and have issued numerous common statements. The important thing is to try to concert and co-ordinate a common line.

My Lords, as there is a United Nations policy on this matter, can the noble Lord tell us what success it is having in achieving peace?

My Lords, we still hope that it will be possible to further the aims of the Security Council Resolution No. 598. That must remain the key. It is also important that we support the freedom of navigation of all waterways such as the Gulf, and that is demonstrated by the presence in the Gulf of naval forces from five Western European Union members: ourselves, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

My Lords, are the Government satisfied that the present ad hoc naval arrangement that we have in the Gulf is working satisfactorily? Can he say a word about the four mine-sweepers and confirm the reports that we have received that they are making a valuable contribution?

My Lords, I can certainly confirm that the four mine-sweepers are making a valuable contribution. The arrangements for concerting and co-ordinating the approach of the naval forces there is much better done locally than by any other agency. I also assure the noble Lord that that is going particularly well.