HC Deb 10 March 1993 vol 220 cc931-3
10. Mr. Spellar

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Israel regarding the middle east peace process.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs most recently saw the Israeli Foreign Minister in Brussels on I February. I have recently seen the Israeli Ministers of Housing and Justice, and I shall be seeing the deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Beilin, tomorrow. There is no doubt that the Israeli Government wish to resume peace negotiations as soon as possible. We have reminded them that this resumption will be facilitated by further Israeli moves to resolve the problem of the Palestinian deportees and concrete measures to improve the human rights situation in the occupied territories.

Mr. Spellar

Will the Minister be discussing with Israeli Ministers the opening of talks with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the meeting that he had with them yesterday? At the meeting yesterday, did he clearly demand that the Palestine Liberation Organisation seeks to end the violence and terror in the occupied territories?

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I will indeed be talking with Mr. Beilin about the sorts of reasons that caused us to see Mr. Husseini, the Palestine Liberation Organisation representative, yesterday. At yesterday's meeting, I talked about the need for the Israeli Government to take confidence-building measures within the occupied territories to reduce the weight of the occupation. I made it plain to Mr. Husseini and the PLO representative that it would be much easier for the Israeli Government to take that action if violence in the occupied territories could be stopped.

Mr. Sumberg

Contact with the PLO was suspended two years ago because, at that time, when the lives of British troops were at risk, the first people to rush to Baghdad to support Saddam Hussein were PLO representatives and Yasser Arafat. Has my right hon. and learned Friend any evidence to put before the House that the PLO's attitude has changed or, given a repetition of the Gulf conflict, would the PLO behave in exactly the same way?

Mr. Hogg

I think that we can agree that a resumption of the bilateral talks is a matter of enormous importance for the peace of the middle east and, thus, the world. Her Majesty's Government felt that it was important to communicate that view as swiftly and powerfully as possible to the Palestinians and the PLO. That is why we had the meeting yesterday.

Mr. Ernie Ross

I welcome the resumed ministerial contacts between the Government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Does the Minister agree that, in order to promote the peace process in a firm and confident move, it would be as well for the Israeli Government—as signatories to the fourth Geneva convention—to accept the Palestinian recommendation to end deportations and all other contraventions of that convention?

Mr. Hogg

I have made the point to the Israeli Ministers, whom I have met on a number of occasions, that the fourth Geneva protocol applies to the occupied territories and that the policies of the Israeli Government constitute a breach of that fourth protocol in a number of inportant respects. I have also said that the weight of the occupation, and some of the specific policies employed there, stand in the way of a successful outcome for the peace talks—at the same time, so does the violence being practised by the Palestinians.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

I commend the Government for at last recognising the PLO at ministerial level again following the decision in the Knesset to allow citizens of that country to talk to PLO representatives. Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to do all that he can to support traditional, secular Palestinian political action as a way of checking Islamic fundamentalism in that part of the world?

Mr. Hogg

The answer to my hon. Friend's specific question is: yes, I will. The thought lying behind my hon. Friend's question is important—if the present Palestinian leadership, represented by Mr. Husseini, is unable to make obvious progress, it is likely to be supplanted by a fundamentalist party. Therefore, I say to the Israelis when I meet them, and through you, Madam Speaker, that it is important that they make rapid progress on reaching an agreement and lifting the weight of the occupation in the occupied territories.

Dr. John Cunningham

Is it not sad but predictable that Dr. Hannah Ashrawi announced in Jerusalem today that the Palestinians will not be returning to the peace talks in April? Is not one of the principal causes for that decision the regrettable illegal expulsion and deportation of the 400 or so Palestinians by the Israeli Labour Government? When the Minister meets Foreign Minister Beilin—as I shall—will he make it clear that a rapid solution to that problem will facilitate a return of the legitimate voice of the Palestinians to the peace negotiations? Will he also join me in making it clear to Mr. Husseini—as I shall when I meet him shortly—that the appalling descent into sectarian violence in Israel is deplored by all friends of Israel, as well as supporters of the legitimate claims of the Palestinians, who want to see peace in the middle east?

Mr. Hogg

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments and am glad that he, too, is to see Mr. Husseini and the London representative of the PLO. The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that the deportation stands as an obstacle to further discussions. I hope that the Israeli Government will build on what they have already done to comply with resolution 799. I would also go further and say that I think that it is desirable—indeed, essential—that the Israeli Government make it plain that they do not intend to resort to the policy of deportation but will look urgently at other ways of lifting the weight of the occupation.

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