HC Deb 04 May 1988 vol 132 cc870-1
6. Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet the Secretary of State of the United States of America to discuss middle east problems.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We keep in very close touch with the United States Administration on middle east affairs. I next expect to meet Mr. Shultz at the North Atlantic Council meeting on 9–10 June.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Will he confirm that the Shultz initiative for Israel and the Palestinians is very much on the table and alive? Despite the recent depressing developments on both sides the best opportunities lie in those initiatives, supported by the European powers, because the choice for Israel and the Palestinians remains starkly between the dead end myopic tunnel of Mr. Shamir's outlook and the possibilities and ideas of Mr. Weizman, Secretary Shultz and others for a real breakthrough and a real, durable peace and negotiations with the Palestinians.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the status quo holds no answers for either side in a dispute which has lasted for so long. It is important to accelerate progress towards a just, durable, negotiated settlement. United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which embodies the "land for peace" principle, is an essential element. I discussed these matters briefly with Mr. Shultz when I met him in Brussels on 25 April. We fully support his vigorous efforts to inject new impetus into the peace process.

Mr. Ernie Ross

The Foreign Secretary knew, because I made the point clear during Foreign Affairs Question Time in March, that the mission of Secretary of State Shultz would grind to a halt because he and the Foreign Secretary refused to speak directly to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. There is no way that the peace talks can move forward unless Her Majesty's Government and, more important, the United States Government, are prepared to talk to one of the main parties involved in the dispute. Instead of referring continually to a resolution that does not mention the Palestinians, the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State Shultz should speak direct to the Palestinians and their representatives, the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Our position on this matter is clear. There is regular dialogue at official level with the PLO. The PLO is aware of those aspects of its policy which make renewed ministerial contact difficult. We do not accept that the PLO will be the sole representative of the Palestinians. We accept its right to be associated with the peace process and have taken a number of steps to bring that about.

Mr. Walters

Is not the position in the Lebanon extraordinary? Does Israel have some unique dispensation to invade and maraud in the lands of its neighbours, to slaughter civilians in the territories that it occupies, and to assassinate its opponents in sovereign countries, such as Tunisia? Is it not time that this behaviour was brought to a halt? Given that the Shultz initiative appears to have failed, will my right hon. and learned Friend look sympathetically at Signor Craxi's suggested European initiative to see how it could be advanced?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I think that it is premature to conclude that the injection of new energy into the peace process initiated by the United States Administration has run its course. I share my hon. Friend's anxiety that it should be maintained. I agree with his judgment that the latest Israeli raid into Lebanon should be condemned. So, too, should the Palestinian incursions into Israel which preceded that raid. Violence offers no solution. It is essential that both sides address themselves to the matter on the basis of the well-known principles.

We share the widespread sense of horror at the senseless act of terrorism that led to the death of Abu Jihad in Tunis on 26 April. The Israeli Government have offered no comment on who was responsible for that act.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Foreign Secretary, together with Mr. Shultz, make it clear to the Israeli Government that the current incursion into the Lebanon will have no greater success than the three-year ill-fated Israeli invasion of the Lebanon in ending Palestinian action against the Israelis? The only way in which Palestinian action against the Israelis can be ended is through a peaceful settlement involving the Palestinians. The only way to achieve that is by the Israelis having the good sense to follow the advice of their Foreign Minister, Mr. Peres, who wants an international conference. As has been put to me strongly, a conference is also wanted by King Hussein of Jordan, the President of Egypt, the Secretary General of the Arab League and all the other Arabs to whom I have spoken. Is it not about time that Mr. Shamir was told that the secure future of Israel can be obtained only by his stepping aside from his policy and agreeing to an international conference?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am glad to agree with all that the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is important that there should be complete realisation that the Israeli military presence in the Lebanon is provocative and wholly contrary to Israel's long term interests. It is necessary for Israel to withdraw completely from south Lebanon and allow UNIFIL to deploy to the international border in accordance with Security Council resolution 425. Beyond that, it is of the utmost importance that Israel, together with the other participants, should seek a settlement of this long-running tragic conflict on the basis of the principles that have been endorsed time after time by the international community. I say that as a staunch friend of Israel throughout the 40 years of her history and as someone who wants nothing better than to see the survival of Israel in prosperity and security within borders that are universally respected. That can be achieved only if Israel, applying the same principles, is ready to extend similar recognition to the rights of the Palestinian people.

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