HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 c933
9. Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit Israel and the middle east to discuss progress on the peace talks.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

My right hon. Friend visited the region in January. He had useful discussions with the principal participants in the peace process. He has no plans at present for a further visit.

Mr. Streeter

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that a terrible tragedy would become an international disaster if a peace process which could bring meaningful and lasting benefit to millions were to be scuppered by the appalling Hebron tragedy, which was the work of just a few? Will he arrange for himself and the Foreign Secretary to visit the region, where their formidable powers of diplomacy can be brought to bear particularly on the Palestinians and their supporters to get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible?

Mr. Hogg

Yesterday, I had a meeting with four middle eastern ambassadors and with representatives of the Arab League and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I hope to have further meetings with representatives of the PLO this week and I will certainly stress to them—as has my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—the importance of resuming the peace process and talks as speedily as possible.

Mr. Faulds

Would it not help the peace process between the PLO and Israel if the Foreign Office were to urge that, in the interests of peace, the Israelis should deal extremely stringently with the settlers and withdraw both them and the settlements? Does the Minister agree that it is not generally realised that the reasonableness of the PLO has led to Israel having 75 per cent. of what was Palestine while the PLO has less than 25 per cent?

Mr. Hogg

I accept that the settlements are a major problem which stand in the way of a peace settlement. I strongly endorse the action taken by Prime Minister Rabin to disarm the extremist settlers, but there are grave difficulties in disarming all the settlers as many of them face substantive risks themselves.

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