HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 c278
12. Mr. Cohen

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many political co-operative meetings have been held on the Middle East since the launching of the European Economic Community initiative.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The Middle East has been on the agenda at approximately 20 political co-operation meetings, including meetings between Ministers, as well as meetings between officials.

Mr. Cohen

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether during these political, co-operative, meetings, British officials have had the opportunity of meeting their Syrian counterparts? If so, will they ask the Syrians to reconsider the role that they are playing in Lebanon?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman is not quite correct. The political co-operation meetings are entirely composed of members of the Community. They do not involve people from outside.

Mr. Hooley

Would it not be useful for European Community Ministers to suggest to the Israelis that they might talk to the Palestinians, without making stipulations beforehand about who recognises who, where and when?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I have already told the House today, and on many other occasions, that the best way forward would be for the PLO to recognise the existence of Israel and her right to exist within secure borders and for the Israelis on their side to recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.