HL Deb 09 May 1991 vol 528 cc52-3WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs' recent visit to the Middle East.

The Earl of Caithness

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State visited Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from 1st to 4th May. In addition to meetings with those governments, he also had a discussion with the Foreign Minister of Yemen in Cairo on 2nd May.

In Cairo my right honourable friend had useful talks with President Mubarak, Foreign Minister Abdul Meguid and presidential adviser Osama Al Baz. They discussed regional issues, including the Middle East peace process. Bilateral issues discussed included President Mubarak's forthcoming state visit. They agreed that there are now no significant differences in the British and Egyptian approach to the main problems of the Middle East.

In Jordan my right honourable friend had discussions with King Hussein, the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. Jordan is keen to play a helpful role in Mr. Baker's peace initiative and to rebuild relations with the West and her Gulf neighbours. My right honourable friend made clear our continuing friendship for Jordan, and our wish to see Jordan resume its rightful position in the Arab world.

In Kuwait my right honourable friend saw the state of the country following liberation. He was shocked at the extent of the destruction by the Iraqis during their brutal occupation. Much remains to be done before Kuwait is functioning again as a prosperous society, and in this task of reconstruction Britain intends to take a full part. My right honourable friend discussed this co-operation in detail. His meetings with the Amir, the Crown Prince and the Foreign Minister covered a number of issues. My right honourable friend raised reports of human rights abuses following liberation and in particular the position of Palestinians in Kuwait. The Amir said that the government would hold to its commitment to hold general elections in 1992. He emphasised his concern at Iraq's failure to return a large number of Kuwaitis detained in Iraq and property removed from Kuwait during the occupation.

In Saudi Arabia my right honourable friend's discussions with the King and his Minister of Foreign Affairs revealed a close identity of view. The Saudis remain concerned to support the Middle East peace process and to keep up the pressure on the Iraqi Government to fulfil its commitments to the United Nations. My right honourable friend explained the background to our efforts to provide humanitarian help to Iraqi refugees and displaced persons and our view that Iraq could not be allowed to rejoin the family of nations while Saddam Hussein remained in power in Baghdad.

In all four countries there was appreciation for Britain's continuing role in the Middle East whether in pressing for a settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions or in underpinning new arrangements for ensuring the security of the Gulf.