HL Deb 04 April 2001 vol 624 cc119-20WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they and their European Union partners are discussing the blockades in the West Bank and Gaza, and in particular the cutting off of roads to Bir Zeit University, with the Government of Israel; if so, with what result; and whether they consider that the blockades constitute violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of other bilateral agreements. [HL1220]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

We regularly discuss the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories with our European Union partners. These discussions often focus on the Israeli policy of closures and the serious concerns we have about this policy on political, legal and humanitarian grounds. The Stockholm European Council reaffirmed the EU's position that Israel must lift the closures.

It is hard to justify the closures purely on security grounds, as Israel has argued. The closures radicalise the Palestinian population and fuel violence in the Occupied Territories. They cannot, therefore, achieve their stated purpose.

The internal closures are also imposed as a collective punishment. Both Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Peres have made clear that closures will be lifted in areas where there is no violence and strictly imposed where violence continues. The external restrictions, especially on the import of building materials and the export of agricultural products, would also seem to have no relevance to the maintenance of security. Collective punishments are prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

We have called upon Israel to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949.