HC Deb 20 October 1976 vol 917 cc1431-2
17. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have been held with West European Governments about formulating a common policy towards the problem of Palestine.

Dr. Owen

Middle East policy is frequently discussed among the Nine, but these discussions are and must remain confidential.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the recent statement by the Foreign Secretary to the United Nations General Assembly expressing sympathy for the aspirations of the Palestinians towards nationhood is welcome on this side of the House? Can he explain, however, why the Foreign Secretary expressed reservations about the actual sovereignty of the Palestinian State?

Dr. Owen

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome to my right hon. Friend's speech. In saying that it need not necessarily be a sovereign State, my right hon. Friend simply meant that it was premature at this stage to lay down a constitutional blueprint. There are obviously several possibilities, but he was not suggesting any preference for one as opposed to others.

Mr. Aitken

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as the Lebanese civil war rolls on, the Palestinian groups grow more and more fragmented and there is a growing danger that some of the fringe groups will turn once again to outrages of international terrorism, as happened in the past? Does he agree also that one way of avoiding this possible danger is for the Western European Governments to take a positive diplomatic initiative in order to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, a manoeuvre which is sadly lacking at the present time?

Dr. Owen

In my right hon. Friend's speech to the United Nations his purpose was to restate the British view of the essential elements of any settlement for which Security Council Resolutions Nos. 242 and 338 remain the basis. But, in addition, he wished to underline our recognition, as the hon. Gentleman has recognised, of the central importance of the Palestinians and their aspirations towards nationhood.

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