§ 10 Dr M. S. Miller
asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent discussions he has had with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
Ministers have not had discussions with the PLO. Sir John Graham, a deputy under-secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, met Yasser Arafat on 2 December in Beirut during a routine and fully authorized tour of the Middle East in order to hear at first hand the PLO's views and to explain our own.
§ Dr. Miller
Did the hon. Gentleman make it clear to Sir John that the British Government could not expect much progress to be made in such talks unless and until the PLO renounced its oft-repeated intention to try to eliminate the State of Israel?
§ Mr. Hurd
There are two basic facts. One is that the PLO enjoys a lot of support on the West Bank and in Gaza. Secondly, as the hon. Gentleman indicated, it will have to move a considerable distance in accepting the existence and right to security of Israel before there can be a peace settlement. That seems to us a good reason for having additional contacts with it.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart
Does the Minister accept that the idea of constant consultation will be welcome to many hon. Members on both sides of the House, and that no final settlement is possible without the inclusion of the PLO in whatever agreement is arrived at?
§ Mr. Walters
Does my hon. Friend agree that there cannot be a lasting peace in the Middle East without the recognition of Palestinian as well as of Israeli rights? The PLO represents the great majority of Palestinian opinion. Therefore, is it not sensible and obvious that talks with the PLO should be speeded up?
§ Mr. Healey
Will the Minister accept that one great obstacle to negotiations over the Palestinian problem might be removed in July when a new Government take office in Israel, a Government who reject Mr. Begin's claim to the so-called biblical lands, and that it is desirable that the other great obstacle to negotiations should be removed by the PLO's renouncing its commitment to the annihilation of the State of Israel?
§ Mr. Hurd
There have been negotiations, mainly in private conversations, to that effect. What is now needed is for the PLO to move some distance in public, and for the Israelis, in their turn, to accept that it will not be possible to settle the future of the West Bank and Gaza without the participation of the Palestinians.