HC Deb 07 May 1986 vol 97 cc143-5
9. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on recent discussions with King Hussein of Jordan or Mr. Peres, the Prime Minister of Israel, regarding the peace process in the middle east.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had useful talks with King Hussein on 17 April. She and I had similarly useful exchanges with Mr. Peres during his visit to London in January.

Mr. Latham

Since King Hussein has apparently lost patience with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, and since the Israelis will not deal with them, will the Prime Minister use her forthcoming visit to Israel to effect a revival of Mr. Murphy's diplomatic initiative to bring Jordan and Israel directly together under the appropriate international auspices?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend is right to acknowledge that we are in a period of reassessment following the suspension of the Jordanian-Palestinian joint action. It is right that we should actively consider ways of taking the peace process forward. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will take advantage of her visit to Israel later this month to discuss what practical steps can be taken.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Does the Foreign Secretary know whether Yasser Arafat and King Hussein have fallen out? Unless the PLO is included in any discussion, there will be no peace in the middle east. Would it not be more useful for the Prime Minister, when she goes to Israel, to make it clear that she intends that the PLO will be involved in negotiations?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we do not accept that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, although since the Venice declaration is has been clear that it should play a part in the negotiations. The key is that the Palestinians should choose an outcome which they can willingly accept, and the most frustrating deficiency in the present position is the absence of any effective group to represent the Palestinian side of the case.

Mr. Soames

What representations has my right hon. and learned Friend made to the Government of Israel about the outrageous abuses of human rights meted out to the Palestinians on the West Bank?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We have on a number of occasions engaged in frank dialogue with the Israeli Government about conditions on the West Bank, including human rights, and have made it clear to them that Israeli settlements there are illegal and an obstacle to progress.

Mr. Heffer

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there can be no question of the Palestinians choosing an outcome until they have the right to establish a Palestinian state? Will the Government put pressure on the Jordanians and the Israelis to try to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the establishment of such a state, because I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) that there can be no peace in the middle east until such a state is established?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I do not want to be misunderstood. We support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. That is of crucial importance. That means that they should be able to choose what attainable constitutional arrangements they can willingly accept. In those circumstances, we constantly urge, probably more actively than any other country, upon the Governments of Jordan and Israel and others the need for them to move towards a negotiating process that takes account of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Walters

Bearing in mind that terrorism, of which we have heard a great deal this afternoon, is an ugly symptom of the underlying problem in the middle east, will my right hon. and learned Friend do everything in his power to persuade the United States Administration to spend less time talking about the symptom and more doing something about the problem, possibly in an even-handed manner?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Quite apart from the connection between terrorism and the long-standing dispute in the middle east, it is obviously of the highest importance for all concerned to take every possible step to try to bring that dispute to a conclusion, and we certainly urge the importance of that in discussions with the United States as well as others. I agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Anderson

When the Prime Minister makes her welcome visit to Israel, will she visit the West Bank, and if so, which Palestinians will she meet there? Will she take the opportunity of putting in clear terms to the Israeli Administration our fears that the Shamir Administration, which is likely to come into being in October, will lead to a new and intensified settlements policy?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It would not be in the interests of security, among other things, for me to give any insight into the programme foreshadowed for my right hon. Friend, but, regardless of the changes in Administration that may take place in Israel, whether as a result of rotation or otherwise, I am sure that she will continue to make plain to the Israeli Government the need to take account of the Palestinians and the conditions which they face on the West Bank, along the lines of my earlier answer.