HL Deb 01 December 1959 vol 219 cc1052-6

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I wish to state that at two o'clock this afternoon a joint announcement by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United Arab Republic was issued in the following terms:

"The Governments of the United Arab Republic and the United Kingdom have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations at the level of Chargé d'Affaires."

Her Majesty's Government welcome this development. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of all the work done by the Swiss authorities in looking after our interests in the United Arab Republic during the last three years. We are deeply indebted to the Swiss Government, to the Federal Political Department, to the Swiss Ambassador in Cairo and to all the Swiss staff concerned.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Marquess for his statement and to join with him in expressing our appreciation of all that the Swiss Government have done in looking after our interests during this difficult period. This is not the first time we have had to thank the Swiss Government for coming to our assistance on similar and other occasions. It is a valuable thing that there exists a Swiss Government which is available for these occasions. Our thanks to them are in no sense perfunctory. I am sure that all of us are really sincere.

We welcome the re-establishment of relations with Egypt. It is never a good thing that diplomatic relations between countries should not exist, and naturally this is a welcome development. I should like to ask two questions. The first is: are there any conditions, stipulations or arrangements between the two parties to which this resumption of relations is subject? If so, I think that your Lordships' House ought to know of them. Possibly a White Paper may be published, setting out the terms on which this resumption of relations has taken place. Secondly, we all hope that this resumption of relations will assist in speeding up the financial settlement between our two countries, and I should like the noble Marquess to say whether that is so, and whether any discussions have taken place on the financial questions.


My Lords, before the noble Marquess replies, would he also tell us what is the position of Mr. Zarb? Is he to be released or not?


My Lords, I should also like to welcome the statement which the noble Marquess has made and to endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. We have great reason to be thankful to the Swiss Government in many ways. It is a particularly pleasant matter that always we can rely on them fully for completely honest and dispassionate help in all sorts of trouble. The position as outlined by the noble Marquess is welcome. If I may speak in the vernacular, I think that I might almost say, "This is where we came in." After three years we are back at the beginning, and I hope that progress to the point where negotiations were broken off will soon be arrived at. At the same time, we should feel grateful that this young Republic is growing up and has the sense to get in proper touch and build up relations with the more senior and, perhaps, older nation.


My Lords, whilst welcoming, as I think everybody must do, this step towards the re-establishment of normal relations, I should like to ask whether this step on the part of Her Majesty's Government indicates that they are satisfied with the manner in which the terms of the recently signed financial agreement are being carried out by the Egyptian Government, in particular, in regard to the funds released to British subjects under that agreement.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether he could say if this resumption of relations with the United Arab Republic is to be followed by a similar resumption of relations with Saudi Arabia.


My Lords, I am sure that it will be a source of great satisfaction to the Swiss Government that the thanks which have been expressed by Her Majesty's Government should be repeated in all quarters of your Lordships' House. As regards the question of conditions, which was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, there are no conditions. As regards the question of the speeding up of the financial settlement, to which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, also referred, I think we may take it that the reestablishment of diplomatic relations will certainly assist us to get over such difficulties as exist.

The noble Viscount, Lord Long, asked me what was the position of Mr. Zarb. Of course we deeply regret that Mr. Zarb is still in custody. Here again we hope that the resumption of diplomatic relations will assist us in furthering the interests of Mr. Zarb. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that, rather than look back, let us all look ahead. In reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, the position is, as it has always been, regarding the Saudis that there is no obstacle whatsoever to the resumption of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.


That was not quite my point. I asked whether this happy reunion with Egypt would assist both sides in coming to recognition in the case of Saudi Arabia.


I think I must repeat what I said in your Lordships' House before: that there never has been an obstacle. It is conceivable perhaps that this may assist. A Saudi Arabian representative, as I think your Lordships know, has been holding discussions with the United Kingdom Mission in New York. I understand that they are still in the exploratory stage, but we have every hope that there may be a satisfactory issue of them.


My Lords, arising out of the noble Marquess's reply, I should like to ask this question. He said that he hoped this resumption of diplomatic relations would assist a financial settlement. Will he express the hope that this resumption of diplomatic relations will speed up other forms and directions of failure of the Egyptian Government at present to implement fully the agreement? I have in mind, in particular, Article 7 (2), paragraph 1 of which said that there should be no racial discrimination in the entry and exit permits of those wishing to go back to the country. There is evidence that there is racial discrimination against Jewish people. May I ask the Minister whether the Foreign Office will take that, and certain other directions in which the Egyptian Government are failing this agreement, into consideration?


My Lords, I am not prepared to go into the details of whether there is or is not discrimination. Let it suffice for me to say that with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations we shall, of course, conduct our affairs in the way we always do; and if there are any problems of this nature, I can assure the noble Lord that every care will be taken to look into them.


My Lords, but will care be taken to raise them? We all look into them. The question is: Will they be raised? Perhaps the noble Marquess will allow me to finish what I am going to say. There are matters which are causing great anxiety. Now that diplomatic relations are being resumed, there are means by which these matters can be raised with the Egyptian Government, which we were always told there were not before. There are two, in particular: the question of the restitution of the property of British subjects; and the matter of anti-British propaganda which, as the noble Marquess knows, has been going on for a number of years over Africa and emanating from Cairo. I cannot ask for an assurance to-day, but I hope the noble Marquess will go so far as to say that these are matters which can properly now be raised with the Egyptian Government.


Yes, my Lords.