HC Deb 07 February 1990 vol 166 cc884-6
14. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will instruct the consul general in east Jerusalem to continue to monitor alleged breaches of the fourth Geneva convention in the occupied West Bank and Gaza

Mr. Waldegrave

We take a close interest in Israeli human rights practices in the occupied territories, in accordance with our rights as a signatory to the fourth Geneva convention.

Mr. Ross

At the end of last year the British consul general made a number of direct interventions in connection with allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and was criticized for doing so by the Israeli authorities Will the Minister assure the House that Ivan Callan will be given every encouragement to continue these efforts towards fulfilling Britain's obligation to ensure respect for the ensure respect for the fourth Geneva convention, especially with regard to graves breaches?

Mr. Waldegrave

Mr. Callan, whom I know very well, has done nothing without instructions from the British Government. He has done nothing outside his proper role and we support him in everything that he has done.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is going on in the West Bank and Gaza is a disgrace and, more importantly, a continuing disgrace? Does my right hon. Friend see that as a challenge to European political co-operation about which we hear so much, but the results of which. at the end of the day, are sometimes difficult to see? In the European context, will my right hon. Friend cause an approach to be made to the United States to get a joint effort to tell Israel to stop and to deal?

Mr. Waldegrave

We are in close touch with the United States and strongly support its efforts to start direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. I cannot answer a question on this subject today without drawing to the attention of the House the terrible act of terrorism in which many Israeli and some Egyptian lives were lost. We deplore such actions by the enemies of the peace process.

Mr. Kaufman

In supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) and Conservative Members have said about breaches of human rights, may I join the Minister of State in condemning in the strongest possible terms the terrorist outrage against the Israeli tourist bus which led to the deaths of innocent Israelis and Egyptians? Does he agree that perhaps the only hopeful sign to emerge from that atrocity was the immediate condemnation of the outrage by the Palestine Liberation Organisation? Does he agree that that kind of murder and atrocity makes even more important the speeding up of the middle east peace process to avoid the loss of more innocent lives—Israeli, Palestinian or any other?

Mr. Waldegrave

Not for the first time on this subject, I wholly agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The fact that a number of the extremist organisations that are locked in battle with the present leadership of the PLO have, whether rightly or wrongly, claimed responsibility for the atrocity only confirms that the central leadership of the PLO is committed to the peace process at the present time.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with democracy sweeping through eastern Europe and through repressive regimes, the Israeli Government will be swimming against the tide if they attempt——

Hon. Members

They are swimming against the tide.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that they will be continuing to swim against the tide if they refuse to grant democratic rights to people on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip?

Mr. Waldegrave

One of the ironic, perhaps even tragic, contrasts has always been that between, on the one hand, the vibrancy and legitimacy of Israeli's own democracy and its attachment to that democracy and, on the other, its unwillingness to concede similar rights to the Palestinian people.

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