HC Deb 22 January 1968 vol 757 cc17-20
17. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of state for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the Middle East.

Mr. George Brown

Not today, Sir. I think it would be more convenient for the House if we await the Foreign Affairs debate which is to take place later this week.

Mr. Judd

Can my right hon. Friend give any up-to-date information on the plight of the 220,000 new refugees on the East Bank of the Jordan during the winter months?

Mr. Brown

I think that it will be better if we take this into account during the much wider debate which we are to have, starting on Wednesday, rather than do it by question and answer. This does not mean that I do not agree with my hon. Friend that this is a very important question, but it is part of a much wider complex, and, if he agrees, I would rather deal with it when I speak later in the week.

Mr. Tapsell

Is it true, as stated inThe Timesand other newspapers today, that certain of our allies in the Gulf have offered to meet the cost of maintaining a British military presence there?

Mr. Brown

That does not seem to arise out of this Question, and in any case I would not ever be called on to answer for the truth of what I read in the newspapers, includingThe Times.

21. Dr. David Owen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he now envisages to ensure the full implementation of the United Kingdom Resolution on the Middle East carried unanimously in the Security Council.

Mr. George Brown

It is not for Her Majesty's Government to decide on the manner of its implementation. The Resolution of the United Nations explicitly recognised this in appointing a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to go to the area to begin discussions with the parties concerned. While his mission is in progress I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment further. But as the House knows Her Majesty's Government are keeping in close touch with all concerned.

Dr. Owen

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his great contribution to getting this Resolution passed, but does not he agree that it is rather disappointing that so far little action seems to have followed the passing of the Resolution!

Mr. Brown

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for the first part of his supplementary question. I ask him not to be too anxious or gloomy about the second part. I believe that the mission is proceeding very well at the moment, and I have great hopes that we will succeed in getting the beginnings of a settlement there.

Mr. Wood

Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the reactions to this Resolution by Israel and the Arab countries?

Mr. Brown

The great thing about it was that when we brought through this Resolution—it was the first time for a long period that a British resolution had got unanimous assent—we also got the acquiescence of both the Arab countries and the Israelis to it, and Dr. Jarring is now operating in the area with both. I think that the best thing we can do at the moment is to wish him very well. I am in touch with both the Arab countries and the Israelis, and have great hopes that he will be able to begin the process of solving this very difficult problem.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I would like to add my voice to those who wish to congratulate him and the Government in securing this remarkable unanimity in the Security Council last November? But it is now two months since the United Nations Security Council Resolution was passed, and I understand that the Resolution placed no time limit on Dr. Jarring's mission. The Security Council would doubtless wish that it should not be unduly prolonged, because there is real danger of new hostilities breaking out.

Mr. Brown

I thank my hon. Friend for what he said. I entirely agree with him about the mission. My view is that time is not on the side of a solution, and the longer we take over this the more difficult things will get. On the other hand, remaining as I do in close touch, I think that for the moment patience is probably the right virtue to preserve.

32. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in pursuance of their policy of seeking to secure peace in the Middle East, the British Government will seek to bring about direct talks between Israel and her Arab neighbours.

31. Mr. Henig

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to support for direct peace talks between Israel and the Arab States.

Mr. George Brown

While direct talks between Israel and her Arab neighbours are certainly not to be excluded, Her Majesty's Government have always taken the view that it would be unrealistic and therefore unconstructive, to wait upon them before seeking to make progress towards a settlement.

Mr. Shaw

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the only possibility of a lasting peace is direct talks between the two parties and that, therefore, it would help if Her Majesty's Government made their position clear in this and did their best to get the two parties together?

Mr. Brown

This, of course, is one of the most difficult questions that we will ever have to cope with. I have discussed it with Arab statesmen and Arab friends. I discussed it with Mr. Eshkol when he was here last week. It remains my view that the best thing we can do at the moment is to encourage Mr. Jarring in his mission and let the question of direct talks emerge from that. I have no doubt that, in the end, this will have to emerge, but I am pretty sure that if we tried to force that at the beginning, we may very well spoil any chances of a settlement.

Sir B. Janner

May I ask my right hon. Friend to be realistic? Is it not a fact that on practically all occasions previously two contending parties have come together with a view to settling their differences? Does he not think that by some remarks of his he might encourage a settlement in that way—perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations?

Mr. Brown

I think that I am being realistic. I believe that the Israeli authorities understand that I am and I am sure that some of the Arab authorities understand that I am. I am sure that at this moment the right thing to do is to encourage the United Nations mission to go on with this work. Let us move step by step.

Back to