HC Deb 13 March 1991 vol 187 cc928-30
2. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will meet the Secretary-General of the United Nations to discuss the middle east.

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

I have no plans to meet the United Nations Secretary-General in the immediate future, but we remain in close touch.

Mr. Coombs

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the war is now over, recent events in Iraq have shown that the peace and stability referred to in resolution 678 are unlikely to return to the region while Saddam Hussein remains in power? Does he further agree that any peace settlement for the region must include provision not only for the Palestinians but for the Kurdish people who merely want the autonomy and democracy for which they have fought for many years?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend's first point. It is hard to see how Iraq can re-enter the international community or, indeed, reconstruct the country effectively while Saddam Hussein is in power. We should all like to see, as part of the general settlement, greater autonomy for Kurds and respect for their aspirations and rights.

Mrs. Fyfe

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that since the plight of the Kurds has been known for so many years while Saddam Hussein's power has increased, it is vital that the Government address the issue now?

Mr. Hurd

I have already answered that point.

Sir Dennis Walters

Bearing in mind that the Geneva convention is systematically broken by the Israelis on the west bank and Gaza and that, although there are encouraging signs of movement towards peace, progress will inevitably be slow, can anything be done in the meantime to protect the Palestinians from further abuse?

Mr. Hurd

The Security Council has debated that matter within the last few months following the shootings at Temple Mount. It is very much in the interests of all concerned that while we are working, as we are now working again, towards a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian problem, the conditions in which the Palestinians live on the west bank and in Gaza should be improved. I put that point strongly to the Israeli Foreign Minister when he visited me not long ago.

Mr. Kaufman

When the country is mourning our service men who were killed in the Gulf war—a war which would never have taken place if outside powers had not supplied Iraq with armaments—is not it indecent that outside powers are now poising themselves to pour arms back into the middle east once again, thus creating the potential for further wars in the region? Will the right hon. Gentleman meet the secretary-general and propose to him that the United Nations take an initiative to impose the most stringent controls on all arms imports into the middle east?

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. Gentleman has obviously studied this matter. As he knows, agreements and control regimes exist for the weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We and the United Nations must ensure that those regimes are strengthened and that the loopholes and weaknesses are blocked. The issue of conventional arms is more difficult. We have our own criteria in this country, which are considerably more strict than those that others apply to the export of arms. There is a need for suppliers to discuss what criteria are reasonable to prevent a repetition of what has happened, when someone such as Saddam Hussein, with his record and clear intentions, built up an army of tanks that was nearly twice as large as those of Britain and France combined.

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