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Middle East: Foreign Policy

Volume 687: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they are making any changes in their policy towards the Middle East in light of the present foreign policy of the United States.

My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister clearly stated, we need a whole Middle East strategy with Israel-Palestine at its core. Part of that is about giving Iran and Syria a strategic choice on how to engage with us to create a stable and prosperous Middle East. We share many common goals with the US and will continue to work with it towards peace in the region.

My Lords, since the committee set up by President Bush under James Baker to consider policy for the future for the Middle East is likely to report soon and will no doubt be followed by further consideration by the American Government of any changes that may be necessary; since the Prime Minister has agreed with David Frost that the Iraq war so far has been a disaster; and since we are the closest ally of the United States and can claim a good knowledge of Middle East problems, when the Prime Minister next meets President Bush on these matters will he put our point of view to the President more vigorously, confidently and persuasively than he seems to have done in the past?

My Lords, the Prime Minister has regular contact with the President of the United States and he makes our views clear to him on every occasion that they speak. We await with interest the Baker-Hamilton proposals.

My Lords, although I would have liked the US President to have listened a little more carefully to the Prime Minister, particularly on disbanding the police and army, will the Minister give me her view on this point? This is the first time that a US Administration have recognised the right of a Palestinian state. That is in no small part due to the Prime Minister’s pressure on that matter, and the continuing engagement that is at last showing some signs of movement may also be due to his continuing involvement. Let us not lose sight of the good things that are happening as well as recognising that mistakes were made, which we should face up to.

My Lords, I understand that the President of the United States and our Prime Minister speak regularly by videophone. Is a record kept of those conversations and will they be available in good time to historians?

My Lords, I am sure that a record is kept, but I shall check on that for the noble Lord. I am sure that historians will find them of great interest.

My Lords, present United States policy is to support Israel economically, to send unlimited firearms to Israel and to use the veto in the United Nations Security Council in support of Israel at every opportunity. Does the Minister accept that there can be no political settlement in the Middle East while that policy continues?

My Lords, as my noble friend pointed out just now, this United States Administration were the first to recognise that there must be a two-state solution in the Middle East. That was an enormous step forward and we should continue to recognise that.

My Lords, obviously a major rethink is going on in Washington, and the United States Congress has set up a survey, to which our Prime Minister gave evidence the other day by video-link. If, in due course, we set up a survey group of a similar kind—not at all to get in the way of our brave military forces, who operate under appalling conditions, but to examine the processes by which foreign policy has evolved to the point where it may, indeed, be a bit of a disaster—does the Minister think that the Prime Minister would give evidence to it?

My Lords, that is a very speculative question, but I am sure that, were the occasion to arise, the Government would give it due consideration.