Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3 July 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon PPS (Jim Knight, Minister of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families 2:30, 3 July 2007

What assessment he has made of the effect of the Hamas movement for regional stability in the middle east.

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

The violence of recent weeks has undermined the political foundations of robust and durable progress towards a two-state solution. The Quartet principles remain an essential basis for an inclusive political process. We will support the work of Tony Blair as the new Quartet representative in helping to build the capacity and institutions of a viable Palestinian state.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon PPS (Jim Knight, Minister of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families

Thank you for calling me, Mr. Speaker. Happy birthday.

In welcoming my right hon. Friend to his new role, may I say that I was surprised to see that article 22 of the Hamas constitution of 1988 argues that Zionist secret societies, such as the freemasons, the Rotarians and the Lions, were established to sabotage society and promote Zionist interests? With such views, is a peaceful solution possible between a Hamas Government in Gaza, a Fatah Government in the west bank and Israel? Are we moving towards a three-state rather than a two-state solution?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

I said earlier that the bedrock of our approach would be to support first, a two-state solution; secondly, all those committed to peaceful negotiation in search of a solution; and, thirdly, the economic, social and humanitarian work that is essential. Consistency with the Quartet principles is the foundation. Obviously, we deplore the sort of sentiments that my hon. Friend read from the Hamas charter, because they are incompatible with the settled two-state solution that is the foundation for a peaceful middle east.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his best endeavours to urge our American friends to cease poisoning the well of relations between Fatah and Hamas? Does he agree that Palestinian unity is extremely important if security is to return to the territories, and that—most important of all—peace talks can recommence with Israel?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

Palestinian unity is important, but the violence, the killing, the feuding between Hamas and Fatah representatives and supporters has deep roots. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman when he says that it is all the fault of the Americans— [Interruption]—or words to that effect. "Poisoning the well" was the expression that he used, but one has to be very careful in making that sort of allegation. The unity to which he referred and a set of Palestinian institutions that can provide the political basis for proper negotiations are obviously essential. I will certainly discuss those and other issues with Condoleezza Rice, my opposite number, when I visit the United States in due course.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Special Envoy to PM on Human Rights in Iraq

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it might help the peace process if the 44 properly elected Palestinian Members of Parliament who have been in Israeli jails for a considerable time were charged and brought to trial, and that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has been trying to visit them in jail for almost two years, should be given that access?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

Yes, they should either be charged or released, which I think was the idea behind my right hon. Friend's question.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

May I reinforce the call of Ann Clwyd? If the Palestinian Legislative Council were the same size as this Chamber, 220 of us would now be in detention. As it is primarily supporters of Hamas who have been detained, what effect does the Foreign Secretary believe that that has on popular support for Hamas among Palestinians?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

Perhaps unfortunately for the hon. Gentleman, I gave a very clear answer to my right hon. Friend. The Quartet principles make it clear that recent events made it doubly imperative that there should be progress and re-engagement in the area. This issue and its resolution provide classic ground for the sort of progress that is needed.

Photo of Phyllis Starkey Phyllis Starkey Labour, Milton Keynes South West

As we speak, the Israelis are continuing to expand their illegal settlements in the west bank. The population of Israelis in the occupied territories has risen at five times the rate of the population of Israelis within Israel. Will the Foreign Secretary urge the Israelis to stop taking further west bank land, as that merely strengthens the extremists on the Palestinian side and weakens the moderates, making a two-state solution impossible?

Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

Yes; I know that my hon. Friend takes a close interest in these issues. Settlement building is contrary to international law. We will continue to raise the matter with the Israeli Government, because the road map is clear that Israel should freeze settlement activity.