HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 cc1068-70
3. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress being made towards achieving peace in the middle east.

Mr. Hurd

We welcome the substantial progress that is being made, but we are concerned at the strains on the peace process in the wake of the dreadful bombing near Tel Aviv. The forthcoming visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Israel, the occupied territories and Jordan on 12 and 13 March will underline our continuing support for the peace process.

Mr. Carrington

Although the responsibility for the problems in the peace process is complex, does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the principal reasons for that is the new proposed settlements on the west hank? Will my right hon. Friend put maximum pressure on the Israeli Government to stop those proposed settlements and will he put maximum pressure on the American Government to exert what influence they have in Tel Aviv to ensure that the settlements do not carry on?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend about that. We persuaded our European partners on 5 January to set this out again. We expressed our concern and called for a total cessation of new settlements. We believe that all settlements in occupied territories—that includes east Jerusalem—are illegal and an obstacle to peace. We point that out consistently. I hope that my hon. Friend will not ignore the sense of shock over the terrorist bombing in Israel which makes Prime Minister Rabin's task much more difficult.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Will the Foreign Secretary review his decision to lift the arms embargo on the state of Syria in view of its reluctance to join in the peace process? Will he ensure that that Government are aware of the British Government's condemnation of the murderous activities of Islamic Jihad—it is based in Damascus—in Netayna on 22 January?

Mr. Hurd

We would not be justified in urging our European partners—it was a European decision—to reimpose that arms embargo. I have already made clear my views about the terrorist act in Israel which killed 21 people.

On the Syrian track of the peace process, movement is needed from both sides. They will both have to show flexibility. I believe that they will achieve a settlement down that track, but the process of getting there is proving very slow.

Sir Timothy Sainsbury

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the peace process is to continue to advance, as I know we all hope that it will, it is necessary not only for Syria and all Israel's neighbours to join in, but for states that paticipate in the process to not only condemn terrorism but take active steps to remove international terrorism from their territory?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, I agree. I do not think that one should underestimate the difficulties that Mr. Arafat has in Jericho and Gaza; we all know that they are real and formidable. We hope that the meeting in Cairo tomorrow between the leaders of the countries of the region and the PLO will serve to give fresh impetus to the peace process and in particular to the Palestinian track.

Mr. Morgan

On the position of Iraq in the middle eastern peace process, what further action can the Government take against the Iraqi Government following the attempted assassination in Iraq of the defector from the Iraqi army, Major Safa al Battat, who is currently being treated for his attempted poisoning at Llandough hospital in Cardiff which serves my constituency? What is the Government's policy on defectors from the Iraqi army who are helping Shi'ite rebels against the Iraqi Government? Is there any Government assistance to the hospital to help it provide 24-hour security for Major al Battat?

Mr. Hurd

That does not arise from the question and I do not think that it is within my responsibilities. However, it is clearly a serious matter so I shall look into it and ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets a letter.

Mr. Batiste

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Dr. Shaqaqi, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the bombing from Damascus on 22 January and that no action has been taken against him by the Syrian authorities? How does that square with Syria's profession that it is no longer a terrorist state and wishes to participate in the peace process?

Mr. Hurd

That is a fair question. I cannot confirm the facts as stated by my hon. Friend, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Sir T. Sainsbury) said, it is clearly the responsibility of all the states that border Israel or which have any concern in the matter to ensure that terrorist activities are not planned from their territory.

Mr. Cousins

The whole House supports the Foreign Secretary's condemnation of terrorist incidents and will welcome the Prime Minister's visit to Israel, Palestine and, especially, Gaza. But can the Foreign Secretary throw any light on what the Prime Minister will be taking with him by way of definite programmes of economic help which will assist the Palestinian authorities and the brave and beleaguered Israeli Government and bring hope in the immediate future to all the unemployed young men of Gaza whose lives and opportunities are a central element in resolving the crisis?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly. We are providing £75 million in support of the peace process and the Palestinians over the next three financial years—that it is in bilateral British and multilateral assistance. As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, we have concentrated especially on what Mr. Arafat asked me to do, which was to provide help for the police force—£3 million for salaries, training courses for senior officers and 200 sets of equipment—and we are now seeking to finalise a further package of technical assistance worth £250,000.

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