HC Deb 12 May 1998 vol 312 cc142-3
7. Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

What consultations he has held with (a) Israel, (b) the Palestine National Authority and (c) Arab states concerning securing peace in the middle east. [40496]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett)

The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister met both the Israeli Prime Minister and President Arafat last week in London.

Mrs. Ellman

Does my hon. Friend welcome Israel's commitment to implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 425, which calls for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied areas of Lebanon? Does he agree that, in order to make that meaningful, both Syria and Lebanon must ensure that the civilians on Israel's northern borders do not suffer further attacks?

Mr. Fatchett

The Israeli Government have offered to accept conditionally United Nations Security Council resolution 425, which is unconditional in demanding Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. My hon. Friend's point is that we must have progress on the Syrian-Lebanese track, and it is important that we have a comprehensive peace settlement covering the whole region. That is why she is right to stress the need to build security in south Lebanon through a comprehensive agreement with both Syria and Lebanon.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Does the Minister accept that one of the problems of bringing about peace in the middle east is the fact that not one responsible Arab leader trusts the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu? Would not Mr. Netanyahu contribute towards the peace if he stopped building those odious settlements on Palestinian land, thus depriving Palestinians of their land and the ability to make a living and to live in peace?

Mr. Fatchett

We have condemned the building of settlements and any action that pre-empts the final status negotiations. The hon. Gentleman probably does his cause no good by using such strong and intemperate language. We do not choose our negotiating partners, but we must ensure that those negotiations are a success. We are looking for progress on the middle east peace process. That is in the interests of Palestinian, Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese alike, and we shall continue to work towards that just objective.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Does the Minister agree that, as the Prime Minister said, although the talks last week produced no breakthrough, they did not break down? Does he further agree that neither in Oslo nor later in Hebron in 1997 were any percentages detailed for territorial redeployment? That was to be implemented by Israel; it was not to be an issue for discussion with the Palestinians.

Mr. Fatchett

As the hon. Gentleman knows intimately, the value of continuing discussion is that it can often lead to a successful outcome in negotiations. We are seeing that in Northern Ireland, and I hope that we shall also see it in the middle east. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister helped to keep those talks going. If we can take the talks on to Washington successfully, that will be in the interests of everyone in the region.

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