HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc983-4
7. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his proposals for security and co-operation in the middle east.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

It is for the countries of the region to reach agreement on future security arrangements. We support their efforts to achieve this and are prepared to help where we can. But we do not envisage stationing ground troops permanently in the region.

Mr. Cohen

Are the United States and United Kingdom Governments not sitting on their military triumphalism and doing little for the future security of the middle east? Is it not the case that the Baathists are still in power in Iraq, the future of the Shias and Kurds is unsafe, there is festering bitterness about the 100,000 dead, with more to come, the west and China have restarted arms sales, Syria and Egypt are already alienated from the allies and there is no hope of any justice for the Palestinians? Should not the Government act, for example, to stop the arms proliferation and set up a conference for security in the region? Or have the glorious victors not got an idea for peace in their heads?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman has set a full agenda, and I fear that he was wrong in every particular respect. The Government have been active in all the respects he described. I re-emphasise the support that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just given to the peace process, which is directed to one of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member should also keep in mind the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on arms control, and the strong support that we are giving to the Bush proposals for arms control in the middle east. We have made an effective response to the problems in north Iraq.

Mr. Ian Taylor

Will my hon. and learned Friend note Conservative Members' welcome for the British Government-inspired series of initiatives in the European Community aimed at achieving a common foreign policy in the middle east, particularly in view of the historic problems of that region which have been somewhat provoked by divisions among the European powers? Is not a most important aspect of future attitude to both the Israeli problem and the initiatives relating to Iraq and the Kurds that a common policy should be developed in the Community, and then applied? Should not we continue to work on this problem through the intergovernmental conferences?

Mr. Hogg

I agree that co-ordinated policies are extremely important, but they are not limited to the European Community. For example, it is extremely important that we work closely with the United States Government in pushing forward the peace process, including its operation in north Iraq.

Sir David Steel

The Minister referred to the excellent statements that were made last month by both the Prime Minister and President Bush on the need to stem the flow of conventional arms into the middle east. Does he share my dismay that since those statements were made the Pentagon appears to be putting together massive arms sales packages to Israel, the United Arab Republic, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt? What effort will the Foreign Office make to ensure that the excellent statements are implemented and that we do not turn the powder keg of the middle east once again into a conflagration?

Mr. Hogg

The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that it is important that we actively carry forward President Bush's proposals to control armaments in the middle east. I have considerable sympathy, too, with the broader proposals of President Mubarak. The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that in July, in Paris, there will be a meeting between officials of the Permanent Five to ascertain how we can advance the general concepts expressed by President Bush.

Mr. Dykes

As Israeli citizens will also benefit from a genuine peace settlement that is fair to both Palestine and Israel, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that a double tragedy would occur if Secretary Baker were to lose heart as a result of the obstinacy of Mr. Shamir, and if Mr. Shamir, with his hesitations and stubbornness, were to assume that a temporary abatement of the intifada would be a signal for him to go easy on the peace process?

Mr. Hogg

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hon. Friend."] Forgive me, he is indeed my hon. Friend. This is an extremely important moment for the state of Israel. I think that it is important that it should take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself. It will be regrettable, I think, if the policy of settlements is pushed ahead, for that would stand in the way of genuine peace talks. Israel will benefit more than any other nation from a peace settlement.

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