HC Deb 07 November 1973 vol 863 cc971-4
4. Mr. Concannon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the formation of a peacekeeping force in the Middle East.

6. Sir John Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government have taken in the provision for the international peacekeeping force in the Middle East; what his plans are for further participation in such a force; and whether he will make a statement.

18. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Great Britain's contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping services, following the recent Middle East war.

20. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what requests have been received for British participation in the keeping of peace between Israel and the Arab States.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The first four national contingents of the new United Nations Emergency Force have been flown to Egypt from Cyprus by the Royal Air Force and are in position. They number about 1,000 men. Agreement in principle has now been reached on the selection of seven further national contingents. We, like the other permanent members, will not be providing troops, but we are ready to give such assistance as we can from the sovereign base areas in Cyprus. We have made clear our willingness to contribute British troops to the larger and more permanent force which in our view may well be needed to guarantee a settlement; the exact composition of such a force will be a matter for the peace negotiations, which we hope will start soon.

Mr. Concannon

I am pleased with the last part of that reply, which shows that the right hon. Gentleman is still offering British armed forces, or members of our armed forces, for the permanent peacekeeping rôle, because it immediately reminds me that it is just over 25 years since I left Israel in the withdrawal from there, and after a lot of——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a formal question.

Mr. Concannon

This is part of the question, Mr. Speaker. I should like to say that after all this time we are getting back to basically the situation that we were in in 1948, with the same ideals. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is insisting that British forces should be involved.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should like to hear more of the hon. Gentleman's reminiscences outside, but all I will say at the moment is that I think there will come a time when there will have to be demilitarised zones, which will have to be policed by rather different forces from the observers now in position.

Sir John Tilney

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider initiating a resolution calling on the United Nations, as a long-term solution, to lease from all combatants substantial areas of land which might form buffer zones and which could be policed by an individually recruited international force which would not be withdrawn at the whim of any national Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. Such a force ought not to be withdrawn at what he called the whim of any individual Government. The problems of leasing property should be left to the peace negotiations.

Mr. Peter Archer

Is not a peacekeeping force which has to be negotiated into existence each time there is a crisis rather like a fire brigade having to be recruited each time there is a fire? Will the right hon. Gentleman press for discussions with a view to securing a permanent international peacekeeping force internationally recruited and paid?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Such a force would be much the best solution if it were in existence to call upon. But I think we shall have to see what the Secretary-General and the Security Council say. If we are to have the use of an international force of this kind it must be an efficient one.

Mr. Grylls

Does not the neutral rôle played by Her Majesty's Government in the recent war put British forces in an ideal position to help in any permanent peacekeeping arrangement?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Certainly. We have made it clear, as I have said, that we would provide a contribution if required to do so. There is a number of ways of dealing with a permanent demilitarised zone. I do not think that we want to seek out any particular ideas on this matter, however, until it has been debated in the United Nations.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the only real basis for a lasting settlement in the area is for Israel to return to her 1967 frontiers, together with a recognition of the rights of the Palestinians? Does not he further agree that the so-called friends of Israel who support that country in her belligerent attitude are doing great disservice to her besides imperilling the peace of the world?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

In the recent debate I made my view clear—a view that is already shared by a great many people and will, I believe, be shared by many others. We have to find another security system for Israel than that which she has been operating in the occupied territories.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Whatever the interpretations and translations of Resolution No. 242, must not any Israeli withdrawal be accompanied by firm guarantees of Middle Eastern frontiers? Is it not gratifying that Her Majesty's Government are willing to provide strong forces for this purpose? Will British and European diplomacy be directed towards bringing to the same conference table Israel and the Arab States, where there have been increasing signs of recognising the reality of Israel?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

On guarantees, I am sure that any settlement involving demilitarised zones will have to be guaranteed. We have said, and the Europeans have said, that we are willing to take part in those guarantees. This is essential if we are to give Israel—and, incidentally, Egypt as well as the other Arab countries—the security which it must have.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Reverting to the question about peacekeeping forces, will the Foreign Secretary make it absolutely clear that, while the Security Council by resolution barred its permanent members from taking part in the present phase of classification and, perhaps, of enforcing the cease-fire, nevertheless there is no resolution by the Security Council which bars this or any other country necessarily from taking part in the essential operation of maintaining demilitarisation and of securing the guarantees which both sides of the House strongly want to see enforced?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I find myself in complete agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. Of course, there will be a great difference between the existing observer force, which I should have thought amounted to 1,500, and the approximately 6,000 troops which it is calculated will be necessary later, from which I think nobody's forces ought to be debarred.