§ 3. Mr. Hawkins
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further contribution Her Majesty's Government intend to make to the progress of talks between middle eastern countries in the moves towards peace in that region.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he try to bring pressure to bear on the Arab countries to end the Arab boycott of trade with Israel when he has further talks with all the parties involved in the middle east peace process? Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind, when considering the position of the various parties in that process, that the only democracy in the region is Israel and that there are great concerns about the position of some other countries on a variety of issues including Syria in particular? Does he agree that, while it is in our interest to promote peaceful talks between all the parties and encourage the development of the peace process, those concerns need to be recognised?
§ Mr. Hurd
I agree with my hon. Friend about the boycott. There has been some progress—if he listens to British firms he will know of the welcome announcement from the Government of Kuwait during the summer—but not yet enough, and we shall continue to urge more. We need a comprehensive settlement. The Israel-PLO accord is a dramatic breakthrough which the House has welcomed, and Israel and the PLO are trying to put it into practice.
There will not be comprehensive peace until there are agreements between Israel and Jordan, Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon. While it is right that the sensitivities of Israeli democracy should be understood and respected—we always try to do that—equally, it is important that none of the three other tracks, with Jordan, with Syria and with the Lebanon, should be long neglected.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross
Does the Foreign Secretary understand that, if the accord signed by those two brave peoples is to work, the peace talks taking place in Taba must be assisted wherever they can be? Does he have any intention of raising with our European partners the possible attendance of a member of the troika to assist in that dialogue in Taba, which has unfortunately broken down?
Can he tell the House of any other initiatives that the European Parliament intends to take to ease the pressure in Gaza? Did the Minister of State take up the suggestion that my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. 330 Cunningham) made at Brighton to invite Chairman Arafat to Britain to express his needs on behalf of the Palestinian people?
§ Mr. Hurd
I can point out what we are doing. I went to Syria not long ago in order to establish our credentials and our interests in that part. On Monday, in Brussels, Mr. Arafat will come at my suggestion and meet the European Foreign Affairs Council. I will be there. He will be coming to London in December. I think that there is a question on the Order Paper about that. I hope to go to Gaza, Israel and Jordan in the next recess. We British want to do our utmost to keep the process on the move and, where we can, give useful and practical support to do so.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Is my right hon. Friend aware that today the PLO has admitted that Ron Arad is still being held in captivity, seven years after he became a prisoner of war? [Interruption.] Is not that, as my hon. Friend says, quite disgraceful? Did my right hon. Friend raise that matter with the Syrians when he saw them? May we have an assurance that he will raise it with Arab leaders whenever he meets them?
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell
What weight do the Government presently attach to the Damascus declaration? What is the Foreign Secretary's assessment of the likelihood of persuading the states of the Gulf Co-operation Council to make better provision for their joint defence?
§ Mr. Hurd
I am all in favour of their making greater provision for their joint defence, and I never cease to urge that on them. The Damascus declaration envisages that they could receive help from Syria and Egypt in that. We support that idea. It is up to them to decide how to put it into practice.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's comments following his successful visit to Syria. Does he appreciate that many of us would like to see the United Kingdom taking a rather more prominent role in trying to support the peace process, which has been achieved with remarkable courage and vision on both sides? Will my right hon. Friend concentrate on the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in particular? How does he see their future?
§ Mr. Hurd
We will try to take a more visible role. We have deliberately held back, as my hon. Friend knows, in recent years in order not to complicate what correctly seemed to us to be a genuine effort by the United States Administration to get things moving. Now we are in more open country, as it were, and I think that there is scope for more visible activity by ourselves, in support, as my hon. Friend said, of the peace process.
My hon. Friend is quite right about the refugees, not just in Lebanon but on the west bank and in Gaza. We are in the lead—£6 million a year—in supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. We shall see more of that in January. I am also very anxious that there should be an Israel-Lebanon accord which can enable a settling down on that particularly difficult part of Israel's border.
Dr. John Cunningham
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's decision to invite Mr. Yasser Arafat to London for discussions. Is not it clear, though, that, based on many of the other comments—for example, the ending of the Arab boycott—the next key decision will be, if possible, and we hope that it will be possible, an agreement between Syria and Israel on the full guarantee of peace and security for Israel, contingent upon a full withdrawal by the Israelis from Syrian territory?
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us a little more about his discussions with President Assad about those matters? Does he share our concern at the rather abrupt break-off of discussions in Taba this week, apparently because the Israelis are now saying that they do not intend to withdraw their military from Gaza but simply to redeploy them? Is not that rather a negation of what has been agreed?
§ Mr. Hurd
President Assad and Mr. Shara'a made it clear that they believed in "total withdrawal" and "total peace". Of course, what remains to be worked out is what each of those phrases means. That can be done only between the parties. There is talk in Israel of a need to digest the Israel-PLO accord—that is, to allow time to pass. I think that that is reasonable, provided that it does not go on for ever. That is the Syrian view, too. That is why it is important to stress that a comprehensive agreement includes Israel and Syria.
I should be disturbed if I thought that the Taba discussions had broken down. I believe that what has happened is that the PLO, and the Palestinians in particular, feel the need for a break in order to consult. There is no doubt about the obligations undertaken by Israel as regards military withdrawal. It has always been clear that they are rather difficult to turn into practical arrangements. It is important that that work should continue.