HC Deb 09 February 1983 vol 36 cc990-1
11. Mr. McWilliam

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what efforts Her Majesty's Government have made to bring about a ceasefire between Iraq and Iran.

Mr. Hurd

We have supported attempts by the United Nations Secretary General and others to end this war. We voted for resolution 37/3, calling for an immediate ceasefire and a just settlement, at the recent session of the United Nations general assembly. We shall continue to support the efforts of those who are trying to achieve a solution.

Mr. McWilliam

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm independent press reports that more than 200,000 people, many of them civilians who belong to minority sects, have been killed in this war? Have the Government ceased to supply military equipment to either side until hostilities are ended?

Mr. Hurd

I cannot confirm the figure for casualties, but in a war that has gone on since September 1980, many people, civilian as well as military, have been killed. We are neutral in this war and we have not supplied lethal equipment to either side.

Viscount Cranborne

Will my right hon. Friend give us details about the amount of military equipment being supplied to the Iraqis by the Soviet Union?

Mr. Hurd

No, Sir, I cannot.

Mr. Newens

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that as long as both sides can obtain arms there is no incentive for them to cease the war, which distracts their populations from the appalling record on human rights that prevails in both countries? In those circumstances, will the Minister reconsider negotiations between the British Government and the Iraqi Government about the supply of arms? Can he say that there has been no supply of arms to Iraq and that there are no proposals to supply arms? If that is the position, it is different from my understanding.

Mr. Hurd

I repeat that we have not supplied lethal equipment to either side.

Mr. Moyle

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the war has now reached a stalemate and that the longer it continues the greater the danger that something might happen to destabilise the entire area? Has not the time come for Britain, with other interested countries, to approach the combatants with a view to starting negotiations towards peace?

Mr. Hurd

Several individuals and organisations have been trying to do that. We have been in touch with Mr. Olaf Palme, who is the United Nations Secretary-General's representative in this matter. We have also been in touch with representatives of the Islamic Conference and many others. Perhaps the Algerians are the best placed to do the job that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and we wish them and all others every success.