HL Deb 12 May 1986 vol 474 cc960-2

2.51 p.m.

Lord Molloy

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 they will seek the support of the United Nations and the EC in order to secure the withdrawal of foreign troops currently occupying Afghanistan and part of the Middle East.

The Minister of State for Defence Support (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, we and our European Community partners fully support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General to secure a settlement in Afghanistan on the basis of successive UN resolutions, the key issue being the withdrawal of Soviet forces. We hope the current talks in Geneva under UN auspices will bring that about. We and our European Community partners are also working in all appropriate fora to promote peaceful solutions to the problems of the Middle East and a withdrawal of unauthorised foreign forces, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that informative and encouraging reply. I think we must agree that when one looks at all forms of terrorism, it usually has a territorial reason. Does he therefore agree that the ideal of this Government to get rid of people who are occupying somebody else's country, whether in the Middle East or in Afghanistan, is the only way not merely to produce peace in the areas involved but also to make a big contribution to reducing terrorism?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the question of terrorism per se perhaps goes a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper. But so far as concerns withdrawal of unauthorised military occupations, the best way forward is surely for people to comply with the relevant UN resolutions.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, while I welcome the comments of the noble Lord the Minister, does he agree that the United Nations and the EC should, as a matter of urgency, see that foreign troops are withdrawn from Lebanon?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, there is of course more than one body of foreign troops in Lebanon. We certainly think that the people of Lebanon should be allowed to decide their own future.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the United Nations talks on Afghanistan which are currently proceeding under the chairmanship, I understand, of Mr. Cordobes. Would it be right to say that those talks are in fact proceeding apace and are likely to come to a conclusion fairly soon? Is the noble Lord able to tell the House that he believes there could be a successful conclusion to those? Secondly, on the Middle East, can he say a word about the initiative taken by President Mubarak in bringing the PLO and King Hussein closer together? Is that matter making progress?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, if I may deal with the first of the noble Lord's points, we hope that the Kabul regime and its Soviet backers will now cease prevaricating so far as the talks in Geneva are concerned and agree to a satisfactory UN timetable for the withdrawal of Soviet troops, which is the crucial issue now being discussed, and then implement it forthwith. In regard to the position vis à vis the Egyptians and the Jordanians—and the noble Lord referred to the possibility of the PLO being brought closer to the Jordanian authorities—I think that is hardly a matter for the United Kingdom, but we shall be supporting any move which contributes to security and progress in that area.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, while I share the thrust of the Question by my noble friend Lord Molloy, will the Minister take this opportunity of condemning the imperialism of Libya, of Syria, of Iraq and of Morocco, who all occupy sovereign territory of neighbouring Arab states?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that sounds a rather catch-all supplementary question, if I may say so, and I should want to consider the exact implications of it before giving the noble Lord the assurance that he wants. But he will well understand that we disagree with unlawful occupation wherever it may occur.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, with regard to the new regime in Afghanistan, I wonder whether my noble friend can tell us whether it differs from the old regime and, if so, in what way? Is it better or is it worse?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, our view is that the new regime in Kabul is no better than the previous one—a ramshackle collection of rogues with no claim to legitimacy.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in so far as we support the United States of America in its condemnation of the occupation of Afghanistan, will we make it transparently clear beyond all peradventure that we equally condemn the occupation of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and other lands stolen by the state of Israel? At the same time, will we make our contribution to seeing that Israel itself also achieves the peace and security to which it is entitled, but Which it will not get until—like the Russians must with raw from Afghanistan—it withdraws from its occupied territories?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid I have to tell the noble Lord that the position in the Middle East is a good deal more complicated than the one in Afghanistan, which was a patent example, if ever there was one, of naked aggression.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is really ironic that the Government of the day of Britain are being asked to take some initiative? All we can do is support resolutions. That is no trouble at all; anybody can support resolutions. The great question that must be asked of those who criticise Britain and its defence policy is: what happens if Russia, for example, refuses to take the slightest bit of notice? What are we supposed to do?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not sure that the prospects of some progress, so far as Afghanistan is concerned, are wholly dependent upon our doing something, as the noble Lord says. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, mentioned just now, there has been a little progress in the talks in Geneva and I hope that they will come to a successful conclusion.

Lord Annan

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree with the remarks of Mr. Austen Chamberlain in 1924, when he said: It does us ill to become the scold of the world"? Does he agree that Mr. Austen Chamberlain was a far better Foreign Secretary than Lord Curzon, who never lost an opportunity of telling other nations how wrong-headed and misguided they were?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I dare say that the noble Lord is right in his historical analysis, but how far I can apply those precepts to the present is another matter.

Forward to