HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc11-2
9. Mr. Alan Lee Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the Central Treaty Organisation meeting held in London in April.

Mr. M. Stewart

The Council of Ministers of the Central Treaty Organisation met in London on 23rd and 24th April. There was a useful exchange of views, both on matters directly affecting the Central Treaty Organisation region, and on wider international matters and general agreement on the policy the Central Treaty Organisation should follow.

Mr. Williams

Would my right hon. Friend agree that since we are withdrawing from the Persian Gulf and the Far East there seems little point in remaining in membership of C.E.N.T.O., with so many conflicting interests?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. It is true of course that the countries which compose C.E.N.T.O. have each a wide range of interests, but it is generally understood that it is not the purpose of C.E.N.T.O. to deal with all those problems. It has the limited but useful objective of giving stability and confidence to the regional countries and promoting economic development among them.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since one of the purposes of C.E.N.T.O. is to safeguard its member nations against possible Soviet aggression, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the brush-off which he gave to my noble friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) when he asked him to comment about the presence of the Soviet Navy in the Gulf? Surely that is important?

Mr. Stewart

I did not say it was unimportant, but I did not think it arose out of the Question on which it was asked.