HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc975-6
1. Mr. Robert Hicks

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest position concerning the establishment of a middle east conference; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The United States Secretary of State is continuing his attempts to secure the agreement of all parties to the convening of a peace conference. He has our full support.

Mr. Hicks

While acknowledging the error of judgment made by the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation during the recent Gulf crisis, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that the problems associated with the Palestinian people remain and, indeed, that their solving is central to obtaining any middle east settlement? Is not it about time that the international community, including the Americans and the Israelis, gave them some positive encouragement to act in a positive way?

Mr. Hurd

I believe that Mr. Baker's initiative is very much in the interests of the Palestinians. I agree with my hon. Friend that the PLO cannot be ignored because it made a grievious mistake in the Gulf war, but it can help by supporting the Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories and by re-emphasising its National Council strategy of 1988 on a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Mr. Strang

Since later today the United Nations Security Council will consider another aspect of the aftermath of the Gulf war—what proportion of future Iraqi oil revenues will be used for the rehabilitation of Kuwait—do the British Government support the proposition that 30 per cent. of those revenues should be used for that purpose or would they, like the United States Administration, prefer the figure to be increased? In any case, the sooner a settlement is reached the better, regardless of whether the figure is 30 or 50 per cent.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The discussion has gone on long enough and we must bring it to a conclusion. It seems that a conclusion of about 30 per cent. is attainable and, I think, about right.

Sir Dennis Walters

With regard to the middle east peace process, as the weeks and months go by and no advance is made on the Baker initiative, does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come for a more vigorous approach to be adopted, or are we going to accept that Mr. Shamir has the right to veto any progress towards peace while continuing to defy international law and the United Nations resolutions and that, therefore, double standards apply in the middle east and will be tolerated?

Mr. Hurd

The present position is that President Bush is waiting for a reply from several middle eastern leaders to letters that he sent after Mr. Baker's latest visit, setting out the areas of agreement and disagreement. There has been some progress, as my hon. Friend will know, but it is not decisive. I believe that an initiative backed and led by the United States is essential if there is to be progress towards peace and we should continue to support it as long as there is life in it. I believe that there still is.

Mr. Kaufman

With regard to two of the potential participants in any middle eastern peace conference, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Kuwaiti Government that those of us who were most determined that Kuwait should be liberated are among the most saddened and worried by the capital sentences being passed in Kuwait and by the capital trials taking place there? Will he ask the Kuwaiti Government to abandon them?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Israeli Government that those of us who feel the warmest and closest feelings for Israel are those who feel most strongly that the continued building of settlements in the occupied territories is probably the greatest single obstacle to peace?

Mr. Hurd

I share the right hon. Gentleman's concern about the trials and sentences in Kuwait. As I understand it, the emir has not confirmed the sentences. Our views are known to him and he will read what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I also agree with what he said about the settlements. As we, our European partners and the American Secretary of State have made clear, there is no doubt that the continued policy of establishing settlements is one of the major obstacles to any sensible peace process.