HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc375-8
5. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on developments in the Middle East as they affect United Kingdom interests and policies.

11. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present position in the Middle East following the Arabi-Israeli conflict as it affects United Kingdom interests and policies.

12. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about steps taken by Her Majesty's Government to promote a peace settlement in the Middle East.

34. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement about the Middle East, so far as United Kingdom interests are involved.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Egyptian and Israeli military representatives have agreed on the implementation of much of the agreement of 11th November and are now discussing the disengagement of the armies. We hope that a conference to negotiate a permanent settlement will open soon. I am in close touch with the other Governments concerned about the preparations for this conference.

Mr. Molloy

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the basis for a real peace settlement in the Middle East, in the interests of Britain, Israel, and the Palestinian Arabs, is still the implementation of Resolution 242, which must be infinitely preferred to killing and bloodshed? Will he do all within his power to see that there is now some practical implementation of the proposals of that resolution?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir. Within the framework of Resolution 242 it ought to be possible to work out a settlement which combines the two essential things—withdrawal, and Israeli security.

Mr. Haselhurst

Has my right hon. Friend received any assurance that the peace conference to resolve all the issues will take place within a measurable time? Has he put forward any clearer views on behalf of Her Majesty's Government as to the shape of the final settlement?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

One does not want to lay down what I could call a blueprint for a settlement, because clearly a final settlement must be agreed, essentially, between the Israelis and their Arab neighbours. But we have expressed opinions as to the kind of settlement which we think should be possible. I hope that the conference will take place quite soon.

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of spelling out, consequent upon his recent statement on the Middle East, how his construction of Resolution 242 differs from that of the Egyptian Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I do not need to spell out the differences between our point of view and that of any other Government. These are matters for reconciliation at a peace conference. No one would like to lay down the law now.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

What is my right hon. Friend's information about the rearming of Arab States by the Soviet bloc? In the light of that, what is Her Majesty's Government's policy about any future resumption of arms supply from this country?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Part of a final settlement must be an agreement as to how arms should be supplied in the area, and in what quantities ; in other words, a rationing system. It is too early, therefore, to say whether we can resume the supply of arms to either side.

Mr. Callaghan

Is it the case that the peace conference is due to start on 18th December? Will the Foreign Secretary be there? If not, how will he represent United Kingdom interests and policies?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

As I have said to the House previously, the essential thing is to get the conference started. It must start with the combatants—Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Israel. After the Moscow agreement, the Americans and the Soviet Union will, I have no doubt, be in close attendance.

Mr. Richard

Not us?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No, not at the start. But the House can fairly assume that there will be many difficulties. It is a long road. It is then that the permanent members of the Security Council will be able to help, because the whole thing must be under the umbrella of the Security Council.

Mr. Boscawen

Will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that the Security Council extends the mandate for the peace-keeping force for longer than six months, because the period of six months greatly reduces the effectiveness of that force and gives the indication that it may be withdrawn at too early a date?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should have thought that if it was to give confidence to anyone, the force would have to be there for many years, in order that confidence may grow. I should have thought that another condition must be that it should not be withdrawn at the request of any one of the combatants.

Mr. Faulds

How can there be any meaningful negotiations towards a peace settlement in the Middle East on 18th December or any other date until the international community has prevailed upon Israel to withdraw from the territories she won after the cease-fire?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The withdrawal and the extent of the withdrawal must be part of the subject matter for the peace conference.

Mr. Dykes

Will not my right hon. Friend say a little more in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)? Is it not alarming that the resupply of weapons to the Arabs is now such that they are in the position in which they were before the recent outbreak of hostilities? Does this not make the achievement of a real peace conference that much more difficult?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I should think that many of the weapons lost by the Israelis and the Arabs have been replaced.