HC Deb 24 March 1969 vol 780 cc1039-40
22. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present situation in the Middle East.

41. Mr. Mayhew

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made at the four-Power talks on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) on 17th March. The recent clashes in the area once more underline the urgent need for a settlement.—[Vol. 780, c. 30–1.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the rapidly worsening situation, particularly between Egypt and Israel, is it not imperative that a four-Power conference be called without delay? If I may quote the Foreign Secretary, is not that a posture the Government could profitably pursue?

Mr. Roberts

We hope that the four Powers will come together for composite discussions soon. We want such a meeting. In the meantime, we are taking a full part in discussions with the other permanent members of the Security Council on a bilateral basis.

Mr. Mayhew

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the situation is rapidly deteriorating, and that possibly the last chances of averting war are disappearing? Can he say why the four Powers have not yet met, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations suggested last week that they would? Will my right hon. Friend in particular aim at getting a timetable for the implementation of the Security Council resolution at such a meeting? Will he use all his influence with the United States to implement that resolution?

Mr. Roberts

Certainly. The main purpose of the four-Power meeting, when it takes place, will be to seek to suggest ways in which the resolution, which was unanimously adopted, can be implemented. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend as to the urgency of the situation as he described it.

Viscount Lambton

In view of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East as a whole, will the right hon. Gentleman consider making elastic the date of our military withdrawal from the Gulf?

Mr. Roberts

That is entirely another matter.

Mr. Rose

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the implementation of the Security Council resolution can come about only if there is detailed discussion of the method of implementation? Does he also accept that this can occur only if both sides get together round the conference table?

Mr. Roberts

It is certainly true that it is necessary for the four Powers to get down to substantive discussion on the form of discussion between the parties concerned. That in turn would be one of the things the four could discuss.