§ Mr. Robert Banks
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the release of the four British hostages in Libya.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am delighted at the safe return of the four British Citizens detained in Libya since mid-May 1984.749W
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear in the House, the Government are deeply grateful to the Archibishop of Canterbury for undertaking this humanitarian mission and pay tribute to his special representative, Mr. Terry Waite. We have co-operated closely with Mr. Waite in his efforts, and are grateful to those friendly Governments who intervened at our request, particularly to the Italian protecting power.
We have consistently made clear that there was no question of bargaining over the freedom of our hostages. We have, however, said that after their release we would be willing to consider ways of improving relations.
We are now ready to hold a meeting between Libyan and British officials under Italian auspices to discuss 750W matters of concern to each side. As a humanitarian gesture the British interests section in Tripoli will also be authorised to accept visa applications in certain urgent medical and compassionate cases.
The welfare of the remaining British community in Libya of about 5,000 is still major concern. Their treatment will be an important measure of Libyan intentions. I would remind those British citizens who travel or work abroad that there are limits to the consular protection we can provide. Those who go to Libya do so on their own responsibility and that of the Libyan authorities to whom we look to ensure their safety.