HC Deb 18 November 1981 vol 13 cc266-7
3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on the visit of the Foreign Secretary to the Middle East.

Mr. Hurd

My right hon. and noble Friend went to Saudi Arabia as President of the 10 members of the European Community to discuss the eight principles proposed by Crown Prince Fahd and other matters of mutual interest. The 10 have welcomed the principles as a positive contribution to the search for Middle East peace, and we regard them as broadly compatible with the Venice declaration, although some of them relate to matters that can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties directly concerned. My right hon. and noble Friend was encouraged by his discussions with the Saudis, who are committed to the search for progress towards a negotiated settlement.

Mr. Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best contribution that Britain and the EEC can make towards Middle East peace is to work in total co-operation with the United States, which has achieved the Camp David agreement and a ceasefire in Lebanon? Will he at least give the House an assurance, after the discussions in Saudi Arabia, that the British Government will unconditionally take part in the Sinai peace force, and that there will be no question of a meeting with Arafat until he at least accepts the State of Israel as a real entity?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend has asked three large questions. On the first, we agree with the President of the United States, who said that Prince Fahd's plan was a hopeful sign and an indication of the willingness of the Saudis to negotiate. We have not yet reached a conclusion about participation in the Sinai force. When we do, of course the House will be informed.

With regard to a meeting between my right hon. and noble Friend and Mr. Arafat, my right hon. and noble Friend has always made it clear that he would consider such a meeting only if he thought that the outcome would be a real contribution towards peace.

Mr. Healey

Has not the European and British position on a contribution to the Sinai force become a black farce? When will a decision be taken? Can the Minister confirm the press reports that M. Cheysson, speaking for the French Government, said that the European contribution should be exclusively in arms and equipment and not in human beings?

Mr. Hurd

I cannot confirm the right hon. Gentleman's second point. He is right about the fact that the decision is taking a long time. We have to reconcile the positions of the four European countries asked by the Americans to contribute, to get the support of all 10 European countries and to reconcile that with the practical requirements of the force. A great many people are involved and a lot of them have strong views.

Mr. Healey

As neither the Israelis nor the Arab States are terribly keen on our participation, except on terms that would be unacceptable to one or the other, and as only the Americans have asked us to participate, will the Government seek clarity on America's policy on the Middle East before acceding to the request? Does the Minister accept that, otherwise, we shall not know what we are being dragged into?

Mr. Hurd

We are having many discussions, at different levels, with the Americans on that point. They asked Britain and other European countries to help them in this exercise, which would, in their view, facilitate that part of the Egypt-Israel treaty that involves a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai. We believe it right to be cooperative, and we are trying to find the right way to do so, compatible with our previous policy.

Mr. Walters

Has my hon. Friend noted the statements made by Mr. Sharon and other Israeli politicians alleging that the Palestinian State already exists and is in Jordan? While King Hussein is still in London will my hon. Friend take the opportunity forcefully to repudiate that inaccurate and outrageous claim?

Mr. Hurd

We do not believe that the claim has any validity. The difficulty about arguing that Jordan is the Palestinian homeland is that neither the Government of Jordan nor the Palestinians agree.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter will come up again. We must move on.

Forward to