HC Deb 18 November 1987 vol 122 cc1047-8
3. Mr. Arbuthnot

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Jordan.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

During my visit to Jordan from 1 to 3 November I held friendly and detailed discussions on international and bilateral issues with King Hussein and his Ministers. Relations with Jordan are excellent.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that is welcome news? Does he agree that King Hussein's work for a peaceful solution in the middle east has been extremely valuable and an example to other Arab leaders?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I endorse my hon. Friend's tribute to His Majesty King Hussein. His courage and tenacity have been an example, not just in that region, but much more widely. The House will wish to acknowledge his most recent considerable achievement in securing full representation from the Arab states at the recent Arab League summit. The final communique from that summit offered several important contributions to the two key regional issues: the Iran-Iraq war and the Arab-Israel dispute.

Mr. Faulds

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, in view of the great success of a move to moderation among the Arab states, it would be a wise time to use what little influence we have on the declining years of the Reagan presidency to get the American Government — the only one in the world who could do it — to pressure Israel into adopting a more realistic attitude towards a settlement of the Palestinian problem?

Mr. Winnick

For once I agree.

Mr. Faulds

Then I must be wrong.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I shall leave the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) to resolve his dispute with his hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) privately. I, at least, am prepared to accept the central thrust of the points that he has made. The United Kingdom, and, indeed, all 12 Community members, have come out firmly in favour of an international conference — one of the initiatives being supported by King Hussein. The United States has not done that. We shall certainly continue our efforts to convince the Americans and the Israelis that an international conference is an opportunity, not a trap or a threat. It is clear that the status quo serves no one's interests. There is no viable alternative to the international conference as a way forward.

Mr. Soames

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House what steps Western leaders are taking to support King Hussein's heroic efforts?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I think that the visit that I undertook, and the extent to which we have been in close and continual consultation with King Hussein, are intended to underline the support that we give to his efforts.

Of course, we also give support to Jordan itself. During my time there, a couple of weeks ago, I announced a 50 per cent. increase in our capital loan as a contribution to the five-year development plan. That, however, is only one outward manifestation of the support that we consistently give to the courageous and far-sighted efforts of King Hussein.

Mr. Kaufman

In view of the success of the Amman summit and the opportunity that it opened up for possible new initiatives for a settlement of the conflict between Israel and her neighbours, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman use all his influence to persuade the United States to put pressure on the Israeli Prime Minister to accept the view of his Foreign Minister that an international conference opens the first possible opportun-ity, under the auspices of the five permanent members of the United Nations, for a long-delayed and wholly desirable settlement to provide security for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The right hon. Gentleman's question precisely underlines the point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). I make no complaint about that. This is a matter on which there is a widespread community of views on both sides of the House. We shall continue tenaciously to press the case for an international conference on the basis of the principles that the right hon. Gentleman has identified, because that is the right way forward.