HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc270-1
4. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent he considers Soviet initiatives on the Middle East will contribute towards the present Middle East peace efforts.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

We have noted recent Soviet references to the possibility of an international Middle East peace conference and the reactions of the parties concerned. We doubt that such a conference can be convened in present circumstances, but are ready to consider all positive moves aimed at bringing a lasting settlement closer.

Mr. Cox

I note that reply, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the enormous danger to world peace created by the present situation? What action have the Government taken to impress upon the Russians the urgency of the withdrawal of the SAM missiles and for the long-term development of a missile-free zone in the Middle East that the Russians and Americans could create?

Sir Ian Gilmour

There are later questions relating specifically to Lebanon. We have been in touch with the Russians, as with everybody else, and have urged restraint in all quarters. I am afraid that I do not know much about the prospects for a missile-free zone, but that, like everything else, we are prepared to consider.

Mr. Aitken

As the most visible Soviet contribution to the present situation in the Middle East has been the supply of a blood-curdling quantity of weapons to Syria, including the missiles now causing all the trouble, would my right hon. Friend prefer to tell us what contribution the Soviets are making towards war in the area?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not think that the Soviets can be said to have supplied more weapons to the Middle East than other countries or that it is necessarily right to single them out. No doubt, as is their custom, the Soviets will try to make profit out of unrest in the area. That is yet another reason to press forward with efforts for a comprehensive peace settlement.

Mr. Woodall

Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that at present 5,000 so-called advisers from the Soviet Union are at present in Syria? Can he tell us what function they are there to perform?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I am afraid that I cannot confirm the number of advisers at present in Syria.

Mr. Walters

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although one of the principal objectives of Western foreign policy should continue to be to resist and to deter Soviet expansionism in the area, as, for instance, in Afghanistan, it would also be sensible to involve the Soviet Union in the peacemaking process in the Middle East?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Soviet Union, as a prominent member of the Security Council, will have to be involved in the peace process at some point. That is certainly conceded, but I do not think that the time has arrived for that yet.

Forward to