HL Deb 05 May 1981 vol 420 cc7-10

2.57 p.m.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what further thought they have given to the suggestion that Security Council Resolution 242 should be supplemented in order to make it clear that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination and statehood; and what action is proposed.

Lord Trefgarne

We remain ready to consider supplementing Resolution 242 if that would be helpful to peace and if such a move would be generally welcomed.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, since the Venice Declaration states so clearly the Palestinian people's undoubted and undeniable rights, should not, there fore, the often quoted Security Council Resolution 242, which speaks of those rights only in terms of "a just settlement of the refugee problem"—and that is a quotation—soon be brought up to date and brought into line? Secondly, are not the dangers in the Middle East highlighted very brightly by the growing and increasingly dangerous situation in the Lebanon which hinges, surely, largely on Palestinian rights?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, certainly as far as Resolution 242 is concerned there would be advantage, I think, in spelling out in a Security Council resolution, incorporating unchanged the other principles of Resolution 242, the political rights of the Palestinians including the right to self-determination. As to the position in Lebanon, I certainly agree with my noble friend that the position there gives rise to a very considerable concern. Indeed, I think I shall be answering a Question about that tomorrow.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, as the noble Lord's Question is very much to the point these days, however much some of us might disagree with the exact phrasing of what he says, in so far as the evenhanded approach to the rights of the Israelis and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians is indirectly mentioned in Resolution 242, is it not a fact that Resolution 338, I think, passed about a year after the passage of 242, to a very large extent covers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not have the text of Resolution 338 in front of me, but I know the noble Lord's expertise in these matters and I have no doubt that what he says is correct. I shall ascertain the position and write to the noble Lord if I am wrong. But I think that the question that I referred to in my earlier answer about the political rights of the Palestinians does need to be seen to. But certainly also the PLO needs to change its position substantially in this context.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, in addition to the reference about the Palestinians in Resolution 242, there is also a reference to the need for preserving the security of the State of Israel—the noble Lord assents—and that the United Kingdom supported that proposition? Following the previous question, can the noble Lord say whether there has been any development in regard to how the preservation of the integrity and entity of the State of Israel is to be implemented? Is it to be organised through the medium of the European initiative and, if so, in what form? What is the use of having a resolution of this kind unless there is some conception of how it is to be carried out? Can the noble Lord reply to these questions?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the European initiative, as the noble Lord refers to it, is of course barely a year old and much progress has to be made in that direction. As noble Lords will know, it is of course the case that the United Kingdom takes over the presidency of the Council of Ministers in a month or two, and we shall wish to take up and pursue the work that has been done by our Dutch colleagues in the interim.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us whether any progress has been made in explaining to the Americans that the threat of Russia is far more enhanced by allowing them to have the troubled waters of unassuaged Palestinian wrongs in which to fish? Have the Americans taken this factor on board? Secondly, are the Government also not aware that Israel's weaponry is far more sophisticated and at a far higher level; that Israel has far more than any of the Arab states surrounding it, and that the State of Israel will ultimately be safeguarded only by and with the consent of its neighbours in that area?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we have no need to lecture our American colleagues, as I think my noble friend's question implied. However, my noble friend put his finger on an important point which lies at the heart of our policy towards the PLO: that it is very important that they should have more than one source of advice to which to turn.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, does the noble Lord appreciate the very real fear, alarm and despondency caused in Israel by the initiative appearing, as it does, in some respects to conflict with the Camp David initiative? In the words of the leading article in today's Daily Telegraph, will he try to put himself in the position of Israel and appreciate her situation—a tiny country surrounded by many hostile countries, probably outnumbered 50 times? Will the noble Lord give an undertaking that neither he nor his right honourable friend will talk, much less negotiate, with the PLO until the PLO has made a quite unequivocal declaration that it recognises the right of Israel to exist within defensible, secure boundaries?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I certainly agree that the interests of Israel are paramount in this matter and that Israel is certainly entitled to proper assurances with regard to its own security. I go on to say that the position of the PLO in this matter is, therefore, quite unacceptable to us, and certainly there is no possibility of a settlement with the PLO maintaining its present position. On the other hand, noble Lords must remember that the PLO represents a very substantial body of Palestinian opinion, and I do not believe that a settlement will be possible without taking those views into account.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, is it not a fact that the United Nations was designed as an association of sovereign nations, not as the spokesman of dissident tribesmen? As far as we are concerned the Welsh and the Cornish, and as far as France is concerned the Bretons and the Basques, were independent people who in history were conquered. If the United Nations is going to assert that every dissident, whether it be Hungarian gipsies or whoever, who originally had a national form, should break into pieces the nations who comprise the United Nations, it will make that organisation even more ridiculous than it is at present.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid that the high-powered philosophy behind the noble Lord's supplementary question sometimes passes over my head. But if the noble Lord is referring to the appearance of certain PLO representatives before the United Nations, I would point out that that occurred, as I recall it, some time ago. I would simply reiterate what I said earlier about our attitude towards the PLO, that whatever disagreements we may have with them, they are an essential part of Palestinian opinion.

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