HC Deb 09 March 1983 vol 38 cc830-1
8. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on efforts for a middle east settlement.

12. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards peace in the middle east.

Mr. Pym

We are approaching the time when crucial decisions must be made by the parties directly concerned in the search for a peaceful settlement. We have encouraged King Hussein and the Palestine Liberation Organisation to reach agreement soon on a joint approach to negotiations, and have urged Israel to reconsider her rejection of President Reagan's proposals. We continue to give full support to United States efforts to make progress both on the Arab-Israel problem and on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

While I acknowledge my right hon. Friend's efforts, is not the middle east conflict that is most dangerous to British interests that between Iran and Iraq? What is being done in that regard? Has my right hon. Friend any information about the initiative of the peace committee of the Organisation of Islamic Conference?

Mr. Pym

The dispute between the Arab countries and Israel in the middle east and the war between Iran and Iraq are both contrary to British interests. They are destabilising, not just in that region but throughout the world. Therefore, it is in all our interests to take every step that we can to try to solve the one problem and stop the war in the other case. No effort to stop the war has so far been successful. The efforts of countries that are closer both to Iraq and Iran than Great Britain have so far failed. We and our friends are doing our best to use all our influence to try to bring that war to an end.

Mr. Watkins

Will the Secretary of State consider a British initiative to try to revive the Geneva conference under joint American-Soviet chairmanship as a meeting place for all parties to the conflict in the middle east? Does he accept that peace in the middle east is far too serious a problem for the world to be a matter of such serious confrontation? It should be a matter for East-West co-operation.

Mr. Pym

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the gravity of the position. Perhaps his first suggestion could be considered, but I believe that the next few weeks are particularly critical. We shall see whether King Hussein, the PLO and other Arab countries can put a position to the United States that would have an effect upon future negotiations. I do not believe that this is the appropriate moment to consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but it could be considered later.

Mr. Alexander

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the serious expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank is impeding the likelihood of a successful outcome to the Palestinian question? Is he aware that 60 per cent. of the 85 or so settlements there have been erected during the past four years? To propose to increase the Israeli population sixfold on the West Bank does no service to peace in the area.

Mr. Pym

I agree with my hon. Friend. As I believe I have made clear before, we regard the Israeli policy as illegal. It is contrary to the Reagan plan, which we still believe, as does practically every other country, is the right basis on which to start the peace-making process. A freeze would be essential as a minimum before the peacemaking process could begin. I share my hon. Friend's views on this matter.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will the right hon. Gentleman reassure the House that the Government remain firm in their intention not to receive leaders of the PLO at top level while it remains determined not even to recognise Israel's right to exist?

Mr. Pym

We have made our position clear on that subject.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Christopher Price.

Mr. Hurd


Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that the hon. Member is here.