HC Deb 22 March 1971 vol 814 cc17-20
8 and 9. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether Her Majesty's Government have made any new proposals in the context of the Four-Power talks on the Middle East since the last extension of the Egyptian-Israeli ceasefire arrangements;

(2) whether he will make a statement on the latest progress in the United Nations Middle East peace talks under Dr. Jarring, as notified to Her Majesty's Government.

19. Mr. St. John-Stevas

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

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

In his proposals to the Governments of the United Arab Republic and Israel, Dr. Jarring sought conditional commitments from them on peace and withdrawal respectively. The United Arab Republic Government's reply gave the commitment for which Dr. Jarring had asked on the nature of peace. Dr. Jarring still seeks from Israel a commitment on withdrawal within the terms of Security Council Resolution No. 242 of November, 1967. It is now more necessary than ever that these negotiations should be enabled to make progress and the Government will continue to play their full part in encouraging the parties to this end, both in bilateral discussions and through the Four-Power talks.

Mr. Dykes

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. One does not wish to make the negotiations more difficult, but bearing in mind two factors of immediate importance which are of crucial significance—the approach of the end of the so-called period of grace and the apparent and indeed disconcerting deterioration of relations between the United States and Israel—do not the Government feel that there might at last be a possibility of some unilateral British initiative vis-à-vis the four-Power talks and the Jarring talks to make sure that negotiations continue on a meaningful basis and eventually lead to direct negotiations between the parties concerned?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes. That would be our intention. If there is the slightest opening for any initiative by the Government, we shall take it. I think that probably public diplomacy at the present time is a mistake.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will my right hon. Friend continue to use his best endeavours to persuade the Government of Israel that their long-term security would be better served by recognition by the Arab States of international guarantees than by clinging to their present wartime frontiers?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I share my hon. Friend's view. I think that there is an opportunity now of which Israel would do well to take advantage. But we equally understand Israel's desire for secure boundaries within which she may live.

Mr. Hattersley

I am sure that the entire House will be glad that the Foreign Secretary was able to make a statement marginally more hopeful than might have been expected when foreign affairs were debated before Christmas. Perhaps I may ask a question on one point concerning the guarantees that Great Britain might be able to give to the affected Powers. Taking into account the interest and enthusiasm which certainly Arab Governments have for Britain to underwrite some of the peace guarantees, would the Government, even allowing for the enormous pressures on British forces now, be prepared to consider participating in a force which would guarantee peace on the basis of resolutions of the United Nations Security Council?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is not wise to speculate as to the specific nature of guarantees or the countries which might take part in a guaranteeing force, but in certain circumstances the British Government would participate in a guarantee.

Mr. Goodhart

Since the Soviet Union is the only one of the four Powers with troops on the ground in the Middle East, and as it has reinforced its forces in Egypt throughout the cease-fire period, have we suggested to the Soviet Government that it should withdraw some of its forces which are now in the Middle East?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

That is rather a wider question. What this question deals with is the nature of guarantees and the possible composition of the guaranteeing force, mixed up, of course, with demilitarised zones and all that. The wider question of limiting armaments to the Middle East on all sides should be looked at, but not particularly in the context of this Question.

Mr. Mayhew

I welcome those replies, but will the right hon. Gentleman meanwhile consider raising at the Security Council the question of the construction of large blocks of suburban flats for Jewish residents in Arab Jerusalem, which is very provocative, is violating three separate unanimous resolutions of the Security Council, and is an act of vandalism condemned by architects and town planners all over the world?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I do not think that that is a matter in which the British Government should take an initiative.

Mr. Longden

Irrespective of Jerusalem, which is in a case by itself, I think, does my right hon. Friend think it reasonable to expect the Israelis to withdraw to the pre-war boundaries, unless we are prepared to speculate about the form of guarantee which will be given to them—and not only to speculate but to make definite proposals?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I think that the first thing which has to happen is that more definition must be given to the Israelis' requirements regarding a frontier. Then, of course, unless there is agreement between, let us say, Israel and Egypt, there is nothing to guarantee. So we want a good deal of information before we can be certain of the nature of the guarantees we offer, but there has been no doubt in the mind of the Israeli Government since the talks in New York that we are prepared to participate in guarantees, and that they could be provided to supplement an agreement.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise, when he speaks of withdrawal by Israel to the pre-1967 frontiers, that this has been interpreted by the Arab Governments as giving comfort to their proposals? Does he not realise that it is totally unacceptable to the Israeli Government to think in terms of withdrawing, for example, from Sharm- el-Sheikh and the Golan Heights? Does he not also recognise that this is a matter of survival for them?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman will remember that Israel said that she would withdraw when she accepted Resolution 242. The question is what adjustments are needed to the 1967 frontiers in order to give Israel the security which she has a right to expect.