HL Deb 06 February 1985 vol 459 cc1065-7

3.6 p.m.

Lord Chelwood

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, with the Lebanese Government's support and with our European Community partners, they will take urgent steps in the Security Council to make the United Nations responsible for keeping the peace in those parts of Southern Lebanon where that Government's writ does not run, as Israel withdraws her occupying forces.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, we have emphasised to all the parties the need for agreed and effective security arrangements in areas to be vacated by Israeli forces. It is for the Lebanese Government to request further United Nations help on their territory.

Lord Chelwood

My Lords, is it not beyond doubt that Resolution 425 of the Security Council which the United States proposed, which was unanimous and which is mandatory, requires Israel's withdrawal from the whole of South Lebanon and also requires the United Nations, through UNIFIL, to give every assistance that it can to the Lebanese Government to restore its own effective authority? Is that not what the Lebanese Government wish to achieve and is it not understandable that they are nervous about an Israeli withdrawal only taking part so far as stage one is concerned, leaving the United Nations in a buffer zone which separates two halves of the Lebanon?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend is right to point to the effect of Resolution 425. That resolution also refers to the wishes of the Lebanese Government and we regard their wishes as paramount in this matter.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to explain what is meant by the United Nations keeping the peace? Does that mean that they are going to organise a force? If so, from where? And who is going to provide the finance for it? Or does it mean that we are going to listen again over a period of time, far too long, to a series of platitudinous resolutions which have no effect whatever? Would it not be far better to encourage the Israelis to get out of there and leave them to fight it out themselves, to kill each other—which is what they are determined to do? Would it not be far better to encourage the Israelis to get out? The Israelis should never have gone in.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Government certainly made their views about the Israeli entry into the Lebanon clear at the time. We were very pleased to hear the announcement from the Israeli Cabinet (on, I think, the 14th January) that they intended to withdraw completely. I understand that the first phase is expected to be complete around 18th February. But, of course, there is already a United Nations force in Lebanon and we hope that they can be assisted to discharge their mandate.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, while we hope for a successful conclusion to the Israeli withdrawal, is it not possible that violence of the type described by my noble friend Lord Shinwell may occur in South Lebanon? In these circumstances, what action are Her Majesty's Government taking within the United Nations to secure a peacekeeping force, and would Her Majesty's Government be prepared to contribute to such a force?

Further, does the noble Lord recall the initiative suggested by President Reagan; namely, that talks should take place between the Soviet Union and the United States about the Middle East? Do Her Majesty's Government agree that the position and the stability of the Lebanon should be part of such talks?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I must emphasise that the responsibility for security in areas of Lebanon to be vacated by Israel rests with the Lebanese army and the Lebanese police. If there is to be a request for further United Nations assistance, that must come from the Lebanese. As for the United Nations force, that, of course, already exists in the Lebanon, and, as the noble Lord will be aware, we provide substantial logistic support for that force.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that the existing United Nations force, bearing in mind all the restrictions and difficulties, has succeeded in limiting the killing and disorder in southern Lebanon? Would he also agree that, while the strengthening of the United Nations force is urgently needed, it is important that its role should be extended to the southernmost part of Lebanon? Otherwise, it will remain as a kind of buffer betweeen the Lebanese army in the north and the Israeli-sponsored South Lebanon army in the south, and that would be disastrous.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I certainly agree that the United Nations force in Lebanon has achieved important successes during the time it has been there, but I think it would have been able to achieve more had it been allowed to extend its area of operations. However, that is a matter for the Lebanese Government and not for the British Government.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, while it is obviously right that any suggestion as to a UN force must come from the Lebanon, could the noble Lord not go so far as to say that, if it did come, we and the United Nations would agree to the reconstitution of a larger force; that we agree with present moves between the United States and the Soviet Union to talk to each other about the Middle East in general; and that we agree with the proposal for a United Nations conference on the future of the whole Near East?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we should certainly want to agree to any proposal that contributed to additional security and peace in the area in question. We in fact provide important support for the United Nations force, to which I have already referred. I do not think I can go further than that.

Lord Molloy

My Lords—

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will not mind if I say that I do not think he should have a second innings today, and I think it would be reasonable if we brought these Questions to an end now. They have gone on for a considerable time.

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