HC Deb 13 January 1993 vol 216 cc897-900
2. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards peace in the middle east.

4. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on progress with the middle east peace process.

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

The eighth round of bilateral negotiations between the Arabs and Israel ended in Washington on 16 December. It is slow progress and the next round is expected next month. Recent events, including the killing of Sergeant Major Toledano and the deportation of 415 Palestinians from the occupied territories, underline the fact that the peace process is the only way to resolve the problem.

Mr. Carrington

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is unacceptable for Saddam Hussein to ignore United Nations resolutions and for Israel to ignore United Nations resolutions over the plight of the 415 Palestinians deported from that country? Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the Israeli Government, pointing out the urgency of complying with the United Nations resolution if there is to be any return to peace and any possibility of success with the peace process in the middle east?

Mr. Hurd

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's first point. The two cases are, of course, very different. On the second, the Israeli Government know our view—which is the Security Council's view—that the action that they have taken is in violation of their obligations under the fourth Geneva convention, which prohibits deportation from occupied territory regardless of the motive. We believe—we hope—that the Israeli Government will allow those deported to return to their homes.

Mr. Dalyell

Do Egypt and Bahrain support military action against Iraq?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman must ask them for their views. I am accountable for the policy of this Government. Iraq is defying the United Nations and the international community. It has not complied with representations made to it on the southern no-fly zone and has refused UNSCOM—the United Nations special commission—permission to fly into Iraq. It has violated the border with Kuwait and has moved missiles into northern Iraq.

The Security Council has made clear its views on all these matters and Iraq should be in no doubt that the consequences will be serious. The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to speculate on the form that those consequences might take. The House will be kept closely informed. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be answering a private notice question later this afternoon; I have to leave for a special Foreign Affairs Council on Yugoslavia.

Mr. Sumberg

When my right hon. Friend considers recent events in the middle east, will he bear in mind the fact that Israel has to deal with the Iranian-backed Hamas movement—an organisation which is dedicated not only to the destruction of the state of Israel but to the ending of the whole peace process on which so many hopes and lives ultimately depend?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly Israel has legitimate security interests and we entirely sympathise with its desire to stamp out terrorism. I do not, however, believe that the means that it has used on this occasion—by deporting the people in question—are a sensible way of setting about it.

Sir David Steel

Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that, deplorable though the murder of the Israeli sergeant-major was, the Israeli Government's response has been completely disproportionate and that that response is not only inhumane—as we have all seen from the television pictures—but extremely stupid, because it plays precisely into the hands of those Palestinian extremists who wish to stop the peace process?

Mr. Hurd

If I commented, I should be repeating what I have already said. We condemned the murder of the Israeli border guard and we entirely understand Israeli preoccupations with Hamas and its negative and destructive policies. We also believe, however, that the peace process—including, in particular, the dialogue with the Palestinians—is crucial. We hope that it will be possible to solve this problem before it gets in the way of the resumption of the talks.

Mr. Renton

Bearing in mind the tragic plight of the 415 Palestinians, does my right hon. Friend see any great possibility of negotiating more successfully with the present Israeli Government than with the previous one?

Mr. Hurd

Indeed so. There has been a radical and welcome change of policy in Israel as a result of the election. I hope that the present problem can be solved. The Secretary-General's special envoy, Mr. Gharekhan, is reporting on his mission to the region. Discussions are in progress and I very much hope that they will succeed.

Mr. Kaufman

Reverting to the first part of the question of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington), may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he agrees that the repeated Iraqi violations of the ceasefire resolutions are unacceptable and that Iraqi offers of constructive negotiation are ludicrous in the light of those violations and of Iraq's repeated attacks on the Kurds and Shi'ites? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that many hon. Members will support military action—provided that civilians are protected—to ensure that Iraq obeys the ceasefire resolutions?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and I agree with his analysis. The House will not expect me to say anything further at this point, but, as I said, the House will be kept closely informed.

Mr. Marlow

Given that it is nearly 50 years since the last war ended, should not we now treat Israel in the same way diplomatically as we would treat any other delinquent country? Given that the 400 people were picked up from their only home without trial or charge and deposited on someone else's territory, should not we consider some form of sanction against Israel until it learns how to behave properly?

Mr. Hurd

I do not think that that would be right. We have made clear our view of the Israeli action and what we think should happen—that a way should be found for those deported to be returned home. That way is now being sought and I hope that it can be found.

Dr. John Cunningham

Does the Secretary of State recognise that we denounce the activities of Saddam Hussein unequivocally and that we support—and have always supported—the enforcement of the air exclusion zones in Iraq to safeguard the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ite Muslims in the south? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that, whatever military action may ensue in support of the enforcement of those air exclusion zones, it is covered by the terms of the United Nations resolution 688, under which the air exclusion zones were established in the first place?

Will he also explain whether it is true, as reported in the Sunday Mirror recently, that he personally authorised a visit to Britain of people from Iraq to discuss with GEC the purchase of telecommunications systems? If it is true, does that give completely confusing messages to not only Saddam Hussein about our relations with him, but the people of Britain about the Government's real intentions?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to speculate on the possible consequences of Iraq's defiance of the United Nations Security Council. I am grateful for what he said about that. Obviously, any measures that are taken will need to be, and will be, in full compliance with international law.

The same point covers the hon. Gentleman's second question. I have not come to the House armed with details of the matter reported in the Sunday Mirror, so I must clearly supply him with them, which I will. Certainly, neither I nor any of my colleagues have authorised any action which could lead anyone in the United Kingdom to believe that it was correct or possible under our law to break the sanctions of the United Nations.

Mr. Batiste

As Hamas is an Iranian-sponsored organisation, what representations have been made to the Iranian Government with a view to curtailing the activities of Hamas in seeking to disrupt the middle east peace process?

Mr. Hurd

I do not think that such representations are likely to be fruitful, but I will certainly study my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Foreign Secretary's reply, may I give notice that I hope to raise this matter under Standing Order No. 20?

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