HC Deb 27 November 2001 vol 375 cc827-8
11. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

What assessment he has made of the prospects for renewing the peace process in the middle east; and if he will make a statement. [15434]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The UK remains engaged, with its EU partners and the US, in efforts to reinvigorate the middle east peace process. I particularly welcomed United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech last week, which set out the US Administration's vision of a comprehensive settlement, and the arrival of the two US envoys Bill Burns and General Zinni in the region yesterday. That represents an important opportunity for the process to be taken forward.

Roger Casale

My hon. Friend will know that the historical record demands, as recent events dictate, that Britain and Europe show leadership, along with the United States, in the century-long search for lasting peace and stability in the middle east. We failed after the first world war and the break-up of the Ottoman empire; we failed after the second world war; and we failed after the Gulf crisis, despite the promise of the Mitchell report and the Oslo accord. Does my hon. Friend agree that only a just settlement can produce lasting peace in the middle east, and that in order to be just, the settlement must take account of the legitimate claims of all the historic peoples of the middle east?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes, and yes.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

Does not Israeli Foreign Minister Peres's statement that there is now broad agreement that a Palestinian state should be created represent a significant step towards a middle east peace settlement?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes, I think it is an important step. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Roger Casale) says, we have a good opportunity to make progress post-11 September. As I think all Members realise, it will not be easy, but we are working hard towards that end.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

If we are to promote a just settlement in the middle east, is it not important for us to demonstrate consistency in our application of international law? Must we not continue to say that Israeli settlements are illegal? Should we not also say, as a European Union, that we would object to Israel's exporting goods from illegal settlements to the EU on the pretext that they were made in Israel?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes. We are making progress in regard to imports from illegal settlements. Moreover, as my hon. Friend suggests, we continue to remind the Israelis that the settlements are illegal. In the end they will have to be dismantled. Their continuing growth does absolutely nothing to further the cause of peace in the middle east.