HC Deb 25 October 1989 vol 158 cc836-7
8. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to promote a cessation of the conflict in the Lebanon.

Mr. Waldegrave

With our European partners we continue to support fully the Arab League committee of three Heads of State in their efforts to bring peace to Lebanon. We welcome the agreement reached at Ta'if by the Lebanese parliamentary deputies.

Mr. Bowis

Does my hon. Friend agree that there will never be peace in the Lebanon while the Syrian occupation troops are there? Does he further agree that there is considerable disquiet that the Arab League agreement, welcome as the efforts have been to reach it, appears to legitimise the position of Syrian troops in the Lebanon? Does he also agree that the Government and people of Britain will never compromise with a regime that has been shown by Amnesty International to be guilty of atrocities and which has been shown by other investigations to be guilty of air terrorism?

Mr. Waldegrave

Our views about some of the activities of the Syrian Government are well known to the House. We believe that it is right and necessary for the sovereignty of Lebanon for all foreign troops, including the troops of the state of Israel, to leave that country. We also strongly believe that in the tragic situation of that country the agreement gives the best hope of restoring proper sovereignty.

Mr. Galloway

The Minister could acknowledge rather more than he has in his answer the extent to which the fly in the ointment, or rather the dangerous angry hornet in the ointment in the Lebanon, is Syria. The Minister welcomes the Ta'if agreement, but surely an agreement that gives the Syrians two years to withdraw from Beirut and an unlimited time to withdraw from the Lebanon as a whole is rather less than perfect.

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not think that it is my job to say whether, ideally, a better agreement could have been written. We think that we have here the beginning of a process that could lead to peace in the Lebanon. We see nothing better on offer. There is certainly no hope of the Syrians being driven by force out of the Lebanon. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that if we are right and the agreement could lead to peace, it will only be if the Syrians withdraw—and the sooner the better.

Mr. Brazier

Does my hon. Friend agree that the record of the Syrians in Lebanon as shown by Amnesty International is one of almost unparalleled brutality? Their record in air terrorism extends from Hindawi to Lockerbie, yet we are endorsing an agreement reached at Ta'if that would leave the Syrian Army controlling almost every polling station in three quarters of Lebanon to elect a Government who are then supposed to discuss with the Syrians the possibility of their withdrawal.

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend seems to be endorsing some other solution. We do not see any hope for the Lebanon other than that brought about by the work of the Algerians, the Saudis, the Moroccans and the Arab world as a whole. That is the only hope at present and it is incumbent on all those such as my hon. Friend who wish Lebanon well to do their best to support the agreement.

Ms. Short

While I am sure that all reasonable people agree with the Government that we must back the Arab League's efforts, does the Minister agree that there will not be proper long-term peace in Lebanon without a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Is it not over time for the British and American Governments to put more pressure on Israel to have proper negotiations with the Palestinians for a settlement there that will assist the achievement of peace in Lebanon?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with the hon. Lady that the poison in the whole region is the lack of a settlement of the fundamental problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis. None the less, the restoration of peace and a sovereign Lebanon would do a great deal to help bring about peace in that region as well. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently met the Foreign Minister of Israel and once again made our views clear.