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Foreign Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day — Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1961.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

Our Ambassador has been asking to see them. I have not had the latest reports, and I do not know whether this has been possible or not.

As for the other Gulf countries, we want to see them making progress in the same way. Some will have considerable resources in the next few years, although the envious eyes which it is now apparent that their neighbours cast upon them as they reach independence have undoubtedly given them food for thought. A number of rulers of the Gulf States have been in London during the past few weeks, and we have had useful talks with them. Progress is being made. In Qatar a new labour law is being prepared, and when suitable arrangements have been completed we hope to transfer jurisdiction on matters arising under this law to the Ruler.

Unfortunately, there has been no progress towards a peaceful settlement with the Omani rebels. We lent our good offices earlier in the year to try to bring about an agreement between the rebels and the Sultan, so that the rebels could return to Oman with suitable safeguards for their keeping the peace in accordance with the Sultan's offer of an amnesty. A settlement seemed in sight, then the rebels broke off the talks and insisted, quite unjustifiably, that Oman should be allowed to secede from the Sultanate. We remain ready to help again if the rebels' attitude becomes less rigid. Meanwhile, Oman itself is quiet. The development programme which the Government are supporting is making considerable headway.

There is a little progress to report about the Buraimi dispute. The House will remember that Mr. Hammarskjold's personal representative, Mr. de Ribbing, has been examining the problem of the refugees from Buraimi now in Saudi Arabia. Mr. de Ribbing made a report after visiting the area last autumn, and we have now agreed with the Saudis that he should continue with the next stage of his work in seeing whether it is possible to arrange for these refugees to return to the Oasis.

Another problem which, like Kuwait, flared suddenly into prominence, is that of Bizerta. I have already informed the House of the events which led to fighting between Tunisian and French forces, and our support in the Security Council for the resolution which calls for an immediate cease-fire and a return of all forces to their original positions. I said that I hoped negotiations would follow and lead to a settlement between the two sides. Unfortunately, it has proved impossible, so far, to get talks going in Bizerta, and therefore to implement the resolution of 22nd July. So, when the matter came up again before the Security Council, we supported a further resolution, sponsored by Turkey, which called for the immediate full implementation of the resolution of 22nd July.

Perhaps I could describe our position here. It is clear, but it is also a delicate one. The dispute is between two of our friends. It is between France, a major Power of the West, and Tunisia, a young and vigorous country which has shown its sympathy with the West, and whose President we were happy to welcome very recently. It is thus particularly distressing for us to find this conflict between those two countries. We are doing what we think any friends would do in these circumstances, which is to keep in touch with them, to try to keep the temperature down, and to give any help which we can in these circumstances. But in the main it must be for the two sides to work out a solution by direct negotiation.