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Middle East

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th June 2009.

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The conflict earlier this year intensified an already difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza. The pace of deterioration has slowed since the ceasefire in January, but the humanitarian situation remains extremely serious. Around 90 per cent. of Gazans still partly depend on food aid.

Success of the response effort continues to depend on opening the crossings from Israel to allow movement of materials and personnel into Gaza. The UK presses the Israeli Government regularly on this issue.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland)

To say that the situation is serious is masterful understatement; it verges on the desperate. There can, however, be no improvement until the borders are opened. What are the Government doing to impress on the Israeli Government the need to let the basic foodstuffs and essentials of everyday life through the border crossing points and into Gaza?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: access through the border crossings from Israel into Gaza is essential to deal with development aid and to help complement the long-term peaceful political solution that is needed in that part of the world.

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

A number of British charities are active in Gaza, one of which is Interpal. Its ability to deliver development aid is being seriously constrained by its inability to access international clearing banking facilities. Will the Minister meet the charity to see—

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Lady, but I am not sure whether she can be heard, and there are still far too many private conversations taking place.

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

Will the Minister meet representatives of Interpal to discuss the difficulties it is having, and to see what help the British Government can offer?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I understand that Interpal has had difficulties in accessing finance, and I am perfectly happy to meet my hon. Friend and the organisation to see what can be done to resolve them.

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Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor Conservative, Esher and Walton

Part of the problem in Gaza is the rivalry between Fatah and Hezbollah. Does the Minister have any engagement in the discussions to try to keep the peace, and has Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu given any assurances in respect of Gaza in his comments about a two-state solution?

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Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I have had no direct discussions with those two parties representing the Palestinian people, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu's recently announced support for a two-state solution, which we think will deal with this situation once and for all.

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