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Iran-Iraq War

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne North 12:00 am, 5th February 1986

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiative he plans to take to help end the Iran-Iraq war.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

We will fully support any realistic initiatives aimed at bringing an end to this tragic and wasteful conflict, especially through the good offices of the United Nations Secretary General and his special representative, Olof Palme.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne North

What weapons are the Government supplying to Iraq and Iran? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us that when he next meets his European counterparts he will go all out for a complete arms embargo to both sides in this dreadful conflict, so that we can at least say that we are not keeping this awful war going?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I share the hon. Gentleman's condemnation of this pointless, prolonged and bloody conflict. The Government's policy is, and has been for some time, not to sell defence-related equipment to either side which would significantly enhance the capability of either side to prolong or exacerbate the conflict. All applications for the export of defence equipment are scrutinised rigorously to exclude such items. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, and he should commend that policy more widely.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it is important to ensure that Iraq comes out of this struggle with every honour and assistance from the Government? Will he approach Iran and see what steps can be taken to protect British merchant shipping, which has been subjected to attack and boarding by Iranian troops in the Gulf quite recently? Can we not provide some protection for British merchant vessels?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need to impress on both sides the need to enter into negotiations. I have taken note of the willingness of the Iraqi Government to do so. I hope that that view will be taken on both sides. We deplore the attacks on innocent merchant vessels and have taken action to prevent interference with shipping, consistent with article 51 of the United Nations charter.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

What initiatives have the Government taken to obtain the support of the United Nations to stop the flow of arms to both sides in this war, especially in view of the escalation in the use of chemical weapons, which represent a tragedy and a bigger barrier to a solution?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I share the hon. Gentleman's condemnation of the use or potential use of chemical weapons in this or any other conflict. That is why we took the lead in the European Community, and thereafter in the United Nations, in getting a ban imposed on the export of chemicals capable of use in composing chemical weapons. We have supported resolutions to that effect in the United Nations as well.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton

As hundreds of thousands of people have already been killed in this war, which has gone on for years, what are the five permanent members of the Security Council doing to stop it? Why do they not try to work in concert on the matter?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

This is one of the relatively few matters on which the five permanent members of the Security Council take a similar view. It is raised in consultations that I have with any of them. The task that has been attempted by almost every conceivable mediator recently, of bringing both sides to a peaceful conclusion of the conflict, has so far eluded all of those efforts, but I shall keep my hon. Friend's advice in mind.