HC Deb 30 April 1970 vol 800 cc1460-4

Mr. Shinwell (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will raise in the Security Council as a threat to world peace the direct intervention by Russia in the conflict between Israel and Egypt.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I assume that my right hon. Friend has in mind the statement issued by the Government of Israel yesterday. This has caused us deep concern, and we are urgently examining the prevailing situation in the light of this statement.

At present, United Nations action is being handled by the four Powers, and I believe that this is right.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask my right hon. Friend two short questions? If, as a result of his inquiries and representations to our representative at the United Nations and the Security Council, he obtains information which, in his opinion, is worth while giving to the House, will he do so at an early stage and perhaps make a statement next week on the position?

Secondly, is he at all satisfied with the recent declaration by U Thant on the situation in the Middle East, particularly because of recent events which do not appear either objective or satisfactory? Is he altogether satisfied with those statements?

Mr. Stewart

On the second part of my right hon. Friend's question, I do not think that I would disagree with what was said recently by the Secretary. General.

On the first part of the question, I will, of course, always endeavour to keep the House informed. There will be an opportunity when I am answering Questions next Monday.

Mr. Grimond

Does the Foreign Secretary's Answer mean that the four Powers are considering whether this matter should be taken to the Security Council, or is it intended that they should deal with it themselves?

Mr. Stewart

I believe that this is a matter which has still to be examined. It would, of course, be open to the Government of Israel to take the action my right hon. Friend suggested. On present information 1 have no ground for supposing that they would decide to do this.

Mr. George Brown

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that among all the things happening at the moment there is a great propaganda war, and that it is tremendously important for those of us who might be able to help to avoid getting drawn in before we understand whether it is pure propaganda or has any reality behind it?

Mr. Stewart

I think that we have been aware of this on a great many occasions, of the extreme tension there is among the parties concerned and the great need for everybody to try to exercise restraint. We had a debate on this recently and that was the message I endeavoured to give to the House then.

Mr. Amery

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the Israeli allegations are confirmed we should no longer be faced with an Israel-Egypt conflict, but an Israel-Soviet conflict, and that it would be tantamount to the declaration of a Soviet protectorate over Egypt? This would be as serious for Europe as Mr. Khrushchev's attempt to take over Cuba was for America.

Mr. Stewart

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that these questions are extremely hypothetical. It is no secret that there have been Soviet pilots in the United Arab Republic for some time. We are now carefully examing the allegations in the statement made by the Government of Israel, but it depends on what they mean by the words, " operational missions ". It is not our information that Soviet personnel has been engaged over the territory of Israel or the occupied territories.

Mr. Judd

Would my right hon. Friend agree that with reference to the recent statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations there is an unfortunate tendency to heap the criticism for failure to reach a solution in the Middle East upon his shoulders? No long-term solution to this problem can be found through independent action by U Thant and the Secretariat of the United Nations unless he and the Secretariat have the continued support of the major Powers and the Powers party to the immediate conflict?

Mr. Stewart

I think that I would be in agreement with that, but I think I have made it clear that we believe that the basis of any settlement must be the Security Council resolution. As things now stand the modality of trying to turn that resolution into a clear programme of action must be agreement between the four Powers of a character which will enable Dr. Jarring to resume his mission and turn the resolution into a resolute programme of action. That, I believe, on present evidence, is the only way in which we can get a solution.

Mr. Walters

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that a new British initiative, possibly calling for a conference in Geneva, has been widely expected in the Middle East for some time? This would both help to bring about a settlement and strengthen British influence. Why has it not taken place?

Mr. Stewart

Because I believe that the right course for us is to co-operate in the work now being done by the four Powers. Progress there, I admit, has been disappointingly slow, but I have no ground for believing that an attempt to shift the place of meeting or the method of trying to reach agreement would help us. We must go on working within the four Powers. There remains a responsibility, as I tried to point out in the recent debate, on the parties directly concerned to try to get nearer to each other's position.

Sir B. Janner

If my right hon. Friend ascertains that the allegations are correct and that the Russians are using their pilots in this manner, how can he rely on Russia, as one of the four Powers, to take an objective view? Meanwhile, will he please refrain from supplying arms to those who are being supplied with unlimited arms by Russia?

Mr. Stewart

As my hon. Friend will recognise, the first part of his suggestion is entirely hypothetical. We have no evidence at present which enables us to accept the statement. If, in the light of further evidence, we came to believe that it was true, that indeed would be a new situation.

As to policy in regard to the supply of arms by this country, I have explained the principles on which we work and I think that there has been agreement in the House on them. We would have desired to have seen a complete stoppage of the supply of arms from outside to this area. If other Powers had agreed with us on that after the war, that is what would now be happening.

Failing that, we have taken the view that on any request for the supply of arms we will bear in mind whether by saying " Yes " or " No " we help to promote the chances of peace in the Middle East. We do not wish to put either party in the Middle East in a position where it believes that it is so advantaged that it would pay it to engage in acts of aggression. Those are the principles on which we have proceeded and shall proceed. This means that we have to take into account, in order to apply them, any change in the situation. We shall find out exactly what the facts are on this and bear them in mind.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In all his deliberations on this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will keep uppermost in his mind the consideration that, until we solve the Arab refugee problem, it is unlikely that we shall get very much further in bringing about peace in the Middle East?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the Soviet Union that it would ill become them at one moment to make charges against Mr. Chappell here of having participated in the slaughter of Jewry if, at the same time, they participate in doing exactly that in the Middle East?

Mr. Stewart

I accept and understand the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. A settlement of the refugee question is part of the Resolution. We have always taken the view that any settlement must be based on the carrying out of the whole of the Resolution.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker