HC Deb 25 January 1984 vol 52 cc907-8
12. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on any recent initiatives taken by Her Majesty's Government to raise at the United Nations Organisation the failure of Iran and Iraq to respect Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gulf war.

Mr. Luce

We shall maintain our efforts at the United Nations to try to achieve a ceasefire and settlement acceptable to both Iran and Iraq. We have urged both sides to respect United Nations Security Council resolution 540 and to make use of the United Nations Secretary-General's good offices in working for a negotiated end to the war.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that that dreadful war has now been going on for more than three years, that at least 200,000 people have been killed and that nobody seems to be doing very much to stop it, or taking much interest in it? Why is the Security Council not in permanent session to try to implement those resolutions, and why are the diplomats not giving it a much higher priority?

Mr. Luce

I entirely agree about the seriousness of the war. It is now in its fourth year and there have been very heavy civilian and military casualties on both sides. It is of great concern to us and many other Governments that the war should come to an end. Considerable diplomatic efforts are being made to try to ensure that Security Council resolution 540 is implemented. The British Government are taking an active diplomatic part in that in the United Nations and elsewhere. We are doing whatever we can.

Mr. Ernie Ross

In pressing on countries the need to accept such resolutions, particularly in the middle east, is not one of the difficulties that one country, Israel, continually violates both Security Council and General Assembly resolutions? When it is suggested that other countries should concern themselves with Security Council resolutions, it does not help if a major friend of this Government constantly ignores them.

Mr. Luce

To return to the main point, the most recent resolution, No. 540, which was passed in October by the Security Council is a balanced resolution. That is what matters. It is fair to both sides and if the war is to come to an end, as everyone wishes, it should be pursued on that basis. We hope that the Secretary-General will be able to send his representative out, if there is enough common ground, to hold discussions and to see whether there is a way forward.

Mr. George Robertson

Does not the news today of the possible deployment of Soviet SS12 missiles in Iraq chill even the Minister's blood and diplomacy? Is it not time that we began a major diplomatic offensive to try to get both parties to adhere to existing United Nations resolutions? Will the Government continue to adhere to their policy of not sending arms to either side in the conflict, and include in that the military support ships now lying at Yarrow's shipyard, Glasgow?

Mr. Luce

Our priority is to do what we can, hearing in mind that we have only a limited amount of influence with the parties concerned. However, to the extent that we have it, we should use it. Without any shadow of doubt that is our priority. The hon. Gentleman will be aware drat we take a neutral position towards the war and do not believe that it is right to sell lethal arms to either side. We believe that all our efforts should be on the diplomatic front.