HC Deb 03 June 1992 vol 208 cc818-9
9. Mr. Hicks

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

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

The fifth round of bilateral negotiations between the parties took place in Washington on 27 to 30 April. Although progress towards resolution of the difficult issues involved has inevitably been slow, substantive discussions are now under way. The momentum of the peace process has been maintained in the five multilateral regional working groups which have taken place in various capitals over the last three weeks.

Mr. Hicks

To help the peace process, would it not be sensible when we assume the presidency to take an initiative similar to the Venice declaration to make it clear that Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories, that the human rights of the Palestinians living there must be restored and that all United Nations resolutions on the subject should be adhered to?

Mr. Hogg

We are, of course, committed to the provisions of resolutions 242 and 338. We think that the best way of tackling the problem lies within the peace process. Certainly the United Kingdom will do her utmost during her presidency to underpin the peace process now under way.

Mr. Ernie Ross

A recent report published by the Israeli central bureau of statistics states that the number of housing starts on the west bank and in Gaza climbed to 8,110 in 1991—a fourfold increase on the previous year. Bearing in mind the international consensus on the illegal nature of those settlements can the Minister tell the House when the Government last made representations to the Israeli Government on this issue?

Mr. Hogg

We do so repeatedly. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says: the settlements in the occupied territories are indeed unlawful and an obstacle to the peace process. We make that point repeatedly, and I do so again now.

Mr. Jopling

To what extent has the success of the talks been made more difficult by the massive flow of armaments into the middle east from former Warsaw pact countries? And to what extent have the activities of the British Government and other Governments been successful in stemming that serious flow of armaments?

Mr. Hogg

My right hon. Friend is right. The flow of armaments into the middle east is a destabilising factor. We have tried to persuade a number of actual and prospective suppliers not to supply. We are of course heavily committed, in the process within the multilateral talks, to try to prevent the flow of arms into the middle east, but the truth is that until the peace process brings about a settlement of the essential dispute it is likely that arms will continue to enter the middle east.

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