HC Deb 09 July 1986 vol 101 cc301-2
15. Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will continue the dialogue started by his predecessor as President of the Council of European Community Ministers, Mr. Hans Jan der Brock, with the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Renton

We shall continue to maintain contact with the PLO, but at present we have no plans for further ministerial meetings.

Mr. Ross

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the predecessor of the Foreign Secretary ended the contact between the PLO and the European Community? Does the hon. Gentleman think that it would be useful to promote some initiative that would follow on from the Venice declaration?

Mr. Renton

Our views on contacts with the PLO are well established. There are often contacts at official levels, but meetings at higher levels remain difficult while the PLO's policies reamin, to say the least, ambiguous on Israel's right to secure and recognised borders and on the use of violence.

Mr. Walters

Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to reaffirm that the Palestinians, like any other people, should have the right to exercise their right of self-determination and also to choose their own leadership?

Mr. Renton

Yes. The principle of the right to self-determination is spelt out in the Venice declaration. It is a principle to which we subscribe. We agree strongly that Palestinians must choose their own representatives, including their leadership. Those people must be willing to take some risks to obtain peace in the middle east.

Mr. Faulds

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the more the British Government tag along with the ignorant attitudes of the American Administration, the less likely is the advance of the Palestinian cause or peace in the middle east?

Mr. Renton

It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman, who has a considerable knowledge of the middle east, overstates his case so dramatically and thus ruins a solid basis to some of his arguments.

Mr. Marlow

I wonder whether my hon. Friend, in consideration of the Palestinian issue, would like to discuss with the Israeli Government their connivance at the cover-up of the murder of two unarmed Palestinian prisoners? Perhaps he would like to take with him the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who seems deeply concerned about the behaviour of international statesmen.

Mr. Renton

I note what my hon. Friend has said. He will fully agree that the matter, about which we have all read a great deal, is obviously one to be pursued by the Israeli authorities. I have no doubt that they will do so with great care.

Mr. Janner

Will the Minister observe that my hon. Friend's question, unlike his supplementary question, referred to a dialogue with Yasser Arafat? Before considering having any such dialogue, will the Minister consult the Governments of Syria and Jordan to see whether they are prepared to have a dialogue with Yasser Arafat, otherwise the truth will become apparent—that this man does not represent the Palestinian people, who are entitled to their rights, but not via the PLO?

Mr. Renton

I have read the same newspaper report as the hon. and learned Member, but it is clearly up to the PLO to decide who its leader should be.

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