HL Deb 27 March 2002 vol 633 cc46-7WA
The Earl of Sandwich

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they consider the West Bank and Gaza to be covered by the European Union-Israel Association Agreement; if so, whether they are satisfied that Israel is keeping to Article 2 of the agreement; and, if not, what measures they have taken to ensure that products originating from settlements not in Israel are not imported into the United Kingdom under preferential tariffs. [HL3149]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The UK, along with the rest of our EU partners, does not consider the West Bank and Gaza to be covered by the trade provisions of the EU/Israel Association Agreement. The West Bank and Gaza are incorporated in a separate interim preferential trade agreement between the EC and the Palestinian Authority.

The European Union has insisted in its discussions with the Israeli authorities that the territorial scope of the EU/Israel Agreement must be respected. The European Commission has undertaken technical discussions with Israel in search of a solution to this issue. The Commission has also published, in November 2001, a notice to importers in the Official Journal of the European Communities. This notice alerted EC importers of the ineligibility of products originating in the Occupied Territories for the preferences provided by the EU/Israel Association Agreement.

HMC&E, with other member states' customs authorities are verifying the origin of certain products. If these products are found to have originated in the Occupied Territories HMC&E may request a guarantee against the difference between the preferential tariff and the normal tariff applied to these goods.

Article 2 of the agreement states that, "Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreements itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy, and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement." Israel is in addition bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

We understand the intense political pressures on the Israeli Government to respond to repeated suicide bombings and our condemnation of terrorism in all its forms is unequivocal. Israel has the right, like all states, to takes measures in self-defence. However, Israel's response must be proportionate and avoid civilian casualties. We therefore have concerns with certain measures implemented by Israel in response to the current intifada, including the practice of extra-judicial killings, the imposition of the closures and the destruction of Palestinian homes and agricultural land. Both bilaterally and through the EU, we have made these concerns clear and urged Israel to cease such practices.