HL Deb 17 June 1992 vol 538 cc182-3

2.47 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they and the EC are taking to help build confidence among the parties in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and between the Arab states and Israel.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, we are active with our European partners in emphasising to all parties the importance of grasping the unique opportunity for peace offered by this negotiating process. As a member of the EC troika, we have a particular role to play. We shall continue to urge all parties to institute confidence-building measures such as an end to Israeli settlement activity and an end to the Arab boycott of Israel.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her helpful Answer. Is it not the case that at present there are little or no postal and telephone links between Israel and its Arab neighbours, with the exception of Egypt? Will the Government press for restoration of those links before a general peace settlement can be achieved?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords. I understand that the Government of Israel do not prevent postal services and telecommunications operating between Israel and the occupied territories and the Arab world. I also understand that some Arab countries are not co-operating at present. We would consider it a useful confidence-building measure if those Arab countries allowed the establishment of direct links. We shall see what can be done.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will maintain and keep the British troops in the multinational force which is monitoring the Egyptian/ Israeli border? That measure will certainly build up confidence. It would be a mistake to withdraw the troops.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I cannot commit the Government for all time and in all circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, will understand that. So far as I can see at present, there is no reason for change in this matter. We believe that confidence-building measures of the kind which he mentioned, and in which I know the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has taken a great interest, are very important. We intend to pursue them.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, would not the recognition of the state of Israel by the Arab states be the most effective means of building peace in the Middle East?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem; and that is the problem for many people. Nor do we recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The city of Jerusalem as a whole is a special case, and the status of it has yet to be determined. It is the UK's view that the city should not again be divided.