HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc627-8
19. Mr. Burden

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from consular officials in Jerusalem on the implementation of peace agreements in the west bank and Gaza.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The reports are frequent, relevant and highly informative.

Mr. Burden

Does the Minister agree that unless the peace process in the middle east goes forward it could rapidly go into reverse? What plans do the Government have to increase the amount of practical assistance being given by Britain to the Palestine National Authority, other than in policing? Will he particularly consider assistance through secondments along the lines of the know-how fund?

Mr. Hogg

On the latter part of the question, the British Government's support, bilateral and multilateral, is around £70 million over the next three years. As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, it is important that there should be early progress. I should like to see Mr. Arafat back in Jericho. It is very important that the Palestinians take control in the five sectoral areas covered by the September agreement. Perhaps most important, it is very urgent that the parties get down to the final stage of the negotiations as speedily as possible.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the recent hijacking of a Lebanese citizen from Lebanese territory by the Israeli defence forces did nothing to help the peace process in that part of the world? Have suitable comments been passed to the Israeli Government? On reflection, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the timing of the announcement to lift the arms embargo on Israel was a little unfortunate?

Mr. Hogg

I do not seek to justify the Israelis' hijacking of the gentleman from Lebanon. Let me also say that that does not promote the release of Ron Arad, if he is alive. Nevertheless, his continued detention is a disgrace and he should be released by whoever is holding him.

Mr. Gunnell

The Minister will be aware that there seems to have been some hold-up in the provision of money for the Palestine National Authority. People are said to be concerned about accounting procedures. Does the Minister agree that this may prove to be a "Catch-22"? Without the money, the accounting procedures cannot be set up; without the accounting procedures, the authority cannot obtain the money. Is not it possible to engage in discussions with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency—in fact, I believe that Ministers have already done so—to ensure that proper accounting procedures can be set up, through UNRWA, to enable administrative help to go into Gaza and Jericho as rapidly as possible?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman is right: there have been discussions, which took place on 8 June. As a result of those discussions, some $40 million of additional money has been pledged. However, the hon. Gentleman should not overlook the importance of proper accounting and disbursement procedures, without which the money might go astray.

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