HC Deb 16 December 1981 vol 15 cc293-4
7. Mr. John MacKay

asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in the light of Arab reaction to the Saudi Arabian eight-point peace plan, he sees any prospect of further progress with the plan.

11. Mr. Latham

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he regards the Fahd plan as still a matter for realistic negotiation, following the outcome of the Fez conference; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

I understand that consideration of Crown Prince Fahd's eight principles remains on the agenda of the Arab League. After a period for reflection and consultation, a further summit is likely to be held. We continue to hope that the Arab States will agree on a common positive approach to the Arab-Israel dispute which will encourage further progress towards a negotiated settlement.

Mr. MacKay

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the annexation yesterday by Israel of the Golan Heights puts in severe doubt any progress on this front? Does it not justify, at least in their own eyes, the action of those Arab States which have opposed the Saudi peace plan? Will the British Government explain to Israel that, while most of us are committed to Israel's continued existence, and to supporting it, we also wish to see a fair settlement for the Arab people in that part of the Middle East?

Mr. Atkins

I agree with my hon. Friend. I draw his attention to the statement issued yesterday by the Ten, deploring the decision of the Government and the Knesset to extend Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration to occupied Syrian territory in the Golan Heights. The statement went on to say: Such an extension, which is tantamount to annexation, is contrary to international law and therefore invalid in our eyes. This step prejudices the possibility of the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 and is bound to complicate further the search for a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East to which we remain committed.

Mr. Latham

Instead of producing theoretical Western initiatives or backing Saudi plans which succeed simutaneously in falling foul of the Government of Israel, the rejectionist Arab States and the PLO, would it not be better if my right hon. Friend followed the example of the Foreign Minister of France and went to Israel to talk to the people there, rather than relying on the Americans to produce leverage on them?

Mr. Atkins

My noble Friend the Foreign Secretary will be going to Israel in the early part of next year.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the Saudi plan is entirely consistent with the principles of resolution 242 and that the annexation of the Golan Heights is a flagrant breach of that resolution, although Israel claims to accept it?

Mr. Atkins

Yes, Sir. The Saudi plan is in conformity with resolution 242. Unfortunately, the Saudi Government were not able to obtain general acceptance for it at the Fez summit.

Mr. Walters

My right hon. Friend has criticised the Israeli vote purporting to annex part of Syria and mentioned the statement by the European Community. What further effective action is proposed by the Government to deal with this very serious challenge to peace?

Mr. Atkins

Representations have been made to the Israelis by ourselves and our partners that what they have done has set back the cause of peace to which we—and, we believe, they—are committed. We shall continue our discussions with all the parties concerned and hope to persuade the Israelis that this kind of action does nothing to ensure the peace that is so essential for them.

Dr. M. S. Miller

What is so important about this arid piece of land in the north of Israel——

Mr. Hooley

It is the best agricultural land in Syria.

Dr. Miller

What is so important about it that it seems to take precedence over what ought to be achieved—a peaceful settlement of the arguments and the disputes between the Arab States and Israel? Why has it assumed such tremendous importance in relation to the other very serious events that are going on in the world today?

Mr. Atkins

What is important about this arid piece of land—to use the hon. Gentleman's phrase—is that it does not belong to Israel.

Dr. Miller

Gibraltar does not belong to England, either.

Mr. Atkins

Israel has annexed it by force. The United Nations, in its resolution 242, denies the right of any country to retain land that it has annexed by force. If Israel wishes other countries to accept its borders, it, too, must accept those of other countries.