HC Deb 05 February 1986 vol 91 cc270-2
5. Mr. Yeo

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about relations with Israel.

8. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, following the visit of the Israeli Premier, Shimon Peres, there has been any improvement in Anglo-Israeli relations; and if he will make a statement.

15. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Anglo-Israeli relations following the visit of Mr. Shimon Peres.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The visit of the Israeli Prime Minister last month as the guest of the Government demonstrated the close links between the United Kingdom and Israel. Out talks with him were friendly and constructive. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accepted an invitation to visit Israel later this year.

Mr. Yeo

Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to do everything that he can to encourage the efforts of the responsible elements on each side in the middle east? Does he agree that Israel could do more to help the peace-making process by refraining from forcing down airliners and by abandoning its policy of establishing settlements in Arab-dominated areas on the West Bank?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I agree with my hon. Friend on both points. It is essential that both sides should refrain from acts of violence or making threats of violence. We have repeatedly made it clear to Israel that its settlement policy is illegal and is an obstacle to peace. To freeze settlements would increase confidence in Israeli intentions, and that was one matter discussed with the Israeli Prime Minister.

Mr. Mikardo

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that everyone who met Mr. Peres and listened to him during his visit was deeply impressed by his manifestly passionate desire to further the peace process, at whatever cost, including stopping the establishment of settlements on the West Bank? Will the Government exercise whatever influence they can, limited though it unhappily is, to help him in that objective?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Of course. It was clear from our discussions with the Israeli Prime Minister that he is anxious to promote the peace process, and for that reason we value the discussions that we had with him. To carry that peace process forward will require a willingness to make concessions on both sides, after we have completed the difficult task of establishing who should be the representative spokesmen for both sides.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

On the question of concessions, can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that Mr. Peres is ready to treat with a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation that could include PLO members, provided that they are not connected with terrorism?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

That is not yet the position, although it was with the intention of establishing some such way forward that we extended an invitation last September to the joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to visit Britain. We must continue the search for every possible way of building that bridge between the two sides.

Mr. Cartwright

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that his condemnation of Israeli action against the Libyan aircraft yesterday will be widely welcomed? Does not the failure of Israeli intelligence involved in yesterday's escapade cast grave doubt on the justification for previous Israeli strikes against alleged terrorist targets in Lebanon, Tunisia and elsewhere, which were based on similar Israeli intelligence?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It is not possible to comment on another country's intelligence, least of all in respect of a series of other unidentified incidents. The whole episode underlines the importance of restraint and determination when dealing with terrorists and terrorism, to ensure that only those who are identifiably guilty are the recipients of any recriminations.

Mr. Walters

Israel has a truly deplorable record of international terrorism and air piracy. I appreciate that my right hon. and learned Friend has issued a statement. Will he continue to emphasise to the Israeli Government that such violations of international law are damaging to peace and that it is no good talking about peace unless one acts accordingly?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I appreciate the way in which my hon. Friend has put his question, in the light of recent incidents. When handling all such matters, it is important to remain evenhanded and firm in one's condemnation of every kind of illegality.

Mr. Janner

I unreservedly welcome the Government's decision to stop the practice of the authentification of Arab boycott documents. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman repeat his condemnation of the boycott as a completely unacceptable interference with freedom of trade?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

As the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware, we have always condemned the boycott. I am glad to have been able to take a practical step which indicates our views.

Mr. Hicks

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he advised the Israeli Prime Minister that no meaningful progress can be made in the middle east until the American and Israeli Governments acknowledge the fact that the Palestinians can be represented only by the Palestine Liberation Organisation in any future negotiations, as the Arab world has collectively agreed and repeatedly stated?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I appreciate my hon. Friend's presentation of the Arab world's view. We do not accept that the PLO is the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. We have no doubt that the PLO should be associated with negotiations, provided that it renounces violence and is committed to a peaceful settlement along familiar lines.

Mr. Anderson

Leaving aside the formula of the sole, legitimate representative, the Foreign Secretary will recall that in the Venice declaration of June 1980 we agreed that the PLO must have a role in peace negotiations. No conditions were applied at that time. Does that remain our policy, and, if so, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us the nature of the message that Prime Minister Peres wished him to convey to King Hussein about the PLO's role in peace negotiations?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It would not be appropriate for me to give details of the messages being passed in such circumstances. I can confirm that the Israeli Prime Minister and His Majesty King Hussein are seeking to find a way to carry forward the peace process, based on the initiative taken by King Hussein last year. In that context, we have made it clear, as we did in the Venice declaration, that the PLO must be associated with the negotiations.

Sir Frederic Bennett

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in Strasbourg last week, when speaking to the representatives of 21 European countries, President Mubarak, who is, after all, a founder member of the peace process in the middle east, said that negotiations which did not include PLO representatives had no hope of success?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am not aware of that statement by President Mubarak. I shall study the speech to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention. I join him in paying tribute to the part played in those negotiations by President Mubarak.

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