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Middle East Peace Process

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd May 2011.

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Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire 2:30 pm, 3rd May 2011

What recent discussions he has had with the Palestinian Authority to encourage the resumption of peace negotiations.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the peace process and the need to return to direct negotiations with Palestinian President Abbas during his recent visit to London. We made it clear that we believe that only a negotiated settlement will secure a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state, living in peace and security next to a safe, secure and recognised Israel.

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

Is the Minister concerned about Iranian influence in Hamas-controlled Gaza, and in Syria and Lebanon?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Briefly, yes. It remains our view, from all the available evidence, that the Iranian regime is interested in instability and disrupting the efforts of nations to build the necessary security and confidence between themselves that we all wish to see. So far, Iranian influence has rarely proved to be advantageous to the world community, but we live in hope.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere

While the cause of peace will have been assisted by the Palestinian Authority’s response to the weekend’s news from Pakistan, does my hon. Friend share my concern about the reported comments of the leader of Hamas in condemning the operation?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Yes, indeed. The events of the weekend were an opportunity for the world community to come together and condemn those who had united Christian, Jew and Muslim against their murdering misery over the years. It is disappointing that Hamas did not take the opportunity to do that, as so many others did.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton

Is the Minister aware that at 12.30 pm last Friday at Nabi Salih on the west bank, a peaceful demonstration against illegal settlements by Palestinians and Israelis, including women and children, was attacked by the Israeli army, which hurled hundreds of gas bombs and sound grenades at them, fired at them with rubber bullets and had a vehicle that hurled sewage at them? Will he condemn this kind of savagery and make it clear to the Israelis that it is impossible to have peace if Israeli troops behave in this abominable way?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I am not aware of the particular incident that the right hon. Gentleman raises, but there is no doubt that in the past, where there have been incidents involving people peacefully protesting—as we believe it is right to do—against settlements that we consider to be illegal, we have condemned such action, and we will continue to do so. This case only goes to illustrate, however, the need for both sides to return to negotiations based on parameters, because the spiral of violence—particularly what we have seen recently on both sides—is just leading to more misery before a settlement can be concluded.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

Following what has just been said, and given Hamas’s commiseration on the death of Osama bin Laden as a holy warrior, will the Government confirm that they will have no direct or indirect talks with Hamas until it renounces terror and violence, recognises the state of Israel and abides by previous diplomatic agreements?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We have no plans to change our position on Hamas. The Quartet principles that my hon. Friend sets out remain the benchmark towards which Hamas should move—that is, a rejection of violence, a recognition of the state of Israel and an acceptance of previous agreements.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

There is real concern about the continuing lack of progress towards peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. What is the Government’s assessment of the impact of last week’s reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas on the prospects of a peaceful transition to a two-state solution, and what role do they see for the European Union in this crucial period?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

It is difficult to see the impact at this stage, because not all the details are available. It must always have been the case that at some stage there must be Palestinian unity, because there cannot be a sensible two-state solution unless all parts of what is deemed to be Palestine are involved. Therefore, the fact that Fatah and Hamas have come to some agreement is something that might provide a step forward. However, it is crucial that that should lead to progress and to both Palestinian wings continuing to reject violence, continuing with the peace process and recognising the state of Israel. As yet, Hamas has not made any move in that direction. We hope that the reconciliation will eventually lead to progress towards a democratic Palestinian state that will indeed reject violence and wish to live in peace and security with its neighbour, but we must judge it by its actions.