HC Deb 03 February 1982 vol 17 c290
5. Mr. Walters

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress towards a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East.

Mr. Hurd

In recent weeks attention has concentrated on the continuing efforts of certain Arab Governments to agree a common negotiating stance and on the forthcoming Israeli withdrawal from Sinai in accordance with the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. We believe that steps towards a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East must include both recognition of the Palestinians' right to self-determination and recognition of Israel's right to live in peace. We and our European partners remain active in the search for progress to this end on the basis of the Venice declaration.

Mr. Walters

I welcome the denunciation by the European Community of the illegal annexation by Israel of the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem and its definition of the annexation as null and void. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there is to be progress towards a comprehensive peace settlement, the Palestinians must be fully involved and that this presupposes negotiations with the PLO as stated in the Venice declaration?

Mr. Hurd

We stated at Venice, and still believe, that the PLO, because of the support that it receives in the occupied territories, will need to be associated with the negotiations.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Do the Government maintain a continuing dialogue with Israel on these matters? Are the Government putting to Israel the great concern felt by many people about the extension of the settlements?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, we maintain a dialogue with Israel. Indeed, my right hon. and noble Friend will visit Israel at the end of March. This will provide a further opportunity for discussions.

Mr. Marlow

Does my right hon. Friend find it possible to visualise a comprehensive settlement of the problems of the Middle East short of the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian State?

Mr. Hurd

We are not near that point. Neither the British Government nor the European Ten can impose a settlement. What we can do is to take the opportunities that occur to get the parties, including Israel, round a negotiating table. It is probably not helpful to foresee the end of the process before the process has really begun.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Does the Minister recognise that, in conformity with and in the same manner as all other settlements that have been effected after a war, there can be no comprehensive settlement of the problem unless and until all the countries in the area are brought together in an atmosphere of negotiation? Does he agree that whatever is done must be recognised by all of them?

Mr. Hurd

As a general principle, that is right. It is one reason why we thought that Crown Prince Fand's principles were a step forward in that direction.