HC Deb 13 July 1977 vol 935 cc420-2
33. Mr. Moonman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the statement by the EEC countries on Middle East affairs.

Dr. Owen

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 30th June.

Mr. Moonman

As the EEC Ministers have accepted a rather controversial statement on the terrorist PLO and the homeland, will the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues in Europe speak out clearly about all the problems associated with the Arab boycott of British goods of companies trading with Israel and the loss of British jobs that has resulted? Will he take account of the French Government's experience in their attempt to amend Article 32 of the French penal code to guide his colleagues and himself in this difficult area?

Dr. Owen

I deplore boycotts of all kinds. This one is not as effective as is often claimed, but I wish that it did not exist. We shall look at any measures that will reduce the effects of the boycott. As I said in an Adjournment debate, our view on the boycott is well known, and I emphasise it again today.

Mr. Crouch

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that many of us welcome this statement from the EEC Heads of Government as a statement of the truth which has so often been left unsaid in the past, particularly in regard to the rights of the Palestinians to a homeland and the admissibility of the acquisition of territories by force by Israel?

Dr. Owen

The danger is that each side takes up one side of the statement. The statement must be read as a whole. It rightly pays attention to the Palestinian homeland and the question of territories occupied by Israel. It also draws attention to the quality of the peace in the Middle East and the right of Israel to exist. It may be said by some that these are conflicting statements, but I do not think so. They are essential elements for any negotiated settlement. We need to have a series of negotiations on this problem, otherwise the world will be faced with a serious conflict in the Middle East.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that this statement, taken in conjunction with the already specific bias towards Arab countries that is very prevalent in the economic protocol of the EEC, will only lead to a greater degree of disquiet in Israel and among those who wish to see the maintenance of a democratic State in the Middle East?

Dr. Owen

I strongly adhere to the right of Israel to exist and I wish to see a democratic country upheld in this region. Many of those who support the Arab cause also believe in this situation. I do not think that the right of Israel to exist is a serious issue among sensible leaders of the Arab world. We must negotiate on the controversial question over the territories, particularly the land that was in dispute after the 1967 war. We must achieve a stable environment, with some measure of security for Israel in new territory which would be its country. This must be negotiated. It is possible for this to be done if we approach it with the balance that we envisage in the statement.

Mr. Michael Latham

The Foreign Secretary may wish to be even-handed. but the statement is not seen in that light in Israel. There has been considerable concern there about it, as there has been about the diplomacy of President Carter.

Dr. Owen

That may be the view of Israel, but the Israelis must take account of the justice of the case and the views of the world. They have always accepted that any settlement would be on the basis of Resolution 242. Implicit in this is the fact that the acquired territory will have to form part of the negotiated settlement, and some of it will have to be given back. The question of the Palestinians has long been controversial, but there is growing opinion, supported by President Carter, that the homeland will have to be part of any settlement. We have not prejudged the question of what that homeland would consist of, and this will be subject to negotiations.