HC Deb 11 May 1983 vol 42 c770
4. Mr. McWilliam

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what new initiatives Her Majesty's Government and their European partners are taking to bring about a cessation of hostilities between Iran and Iraq, especially in view of the fact that there is an escalation of the war.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

We deeply regret the continuation of the war between Iran and Iraq, and the further loss of life. As I told the hon. Member on 9 March, we do not at present see any direct role for ourselves or the European Ten to play. However, we certainly remain ready to support any effort that has a realistic hope of bringing an early and negotiated end to the conflict.

Mr. McWilliam

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that civilians are being killed and that vast areas are being polluted because of the dispute? Does he not think that he and his European allies could have done more than they have bothered to do to bring this disastrous conflict to an early close?

Mr. Hurd

We want to bring the conflict to an end. In addition to what the hon. Gentleman said, I have seen today reports of a serious statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday about the treatment of prisoners held by both sides. If confirmed, that is serious. I entirely agree that if we could see a way in which, realistically, we could be of help in bringing this conflict to an end, we would take it.

Mr. Newens

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the poor record of human rights both in Iran and Iraq and the tremendous suffering of the people there as a result, there is no justification for supplying arms to either side in this struggle? The right hon. Gentleman has already said that no lethal weapons will be supplied. Will he make it clear that we shall not supply any components for lethal weapons? Will he also approach some of our allies to try to persuade them not to supply arms to this area of conflict?

Mr. Hurd

I have told the hon. Gentleman in the past that we have not supplied lethal equipment to either side. That remains the position today. The suggestion in the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question would not lead us far.

Mr. George Robertson

I agree with the Minister's reference to the reports in today's press about the Red Cross statement. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is almost unprecedented for an organisation such as the Red Cross to make a direct accusation against both sides in a conflict? Will he make sure that the Government press as hard as possible on both sides to act in accordance with the Geneva convention and that the Red Cross is backed up in all the work that it is doing?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. We urge both sides of the conflict to honour their clear obligation under the Geneva convention about the treatment of prisoners of war.