This is the first time that the House has met since the tragic loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last Thursday, and I think that it is right to make a statement about that and the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza.
Flight MH17 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed. That includes 10 of our own citizens, as many as 80 children, and victims from nine other countries, including 193 Dutch citizens. It also includes members of an Australian family who lost relatives on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 earlier this year. From Adelaide to Amsterdam, from Kuala Lumpur to Newcastle, we are seeing heart-wrenching scenes of grief as communities come together to remember their loved ones. I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the friends and families of everyone affected. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
Alongside sympathy for the victims, there is anger. There is anger that this could happen at all; there is anger that the murder of innocent men, women and children has been compounded by sickening reports of looting of victims’ possessions and interference with the evidence; and there is rightly anger that a conflict that could have been curtailed by Moscow has instead been fomented by Moscow. That has to change now.
In the past few days, I have spoken to Presidents Obama and Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, and the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Malaysia, Poland and Australia. We are all agreed on what must happen. First, those with influence on the separatists must ensure that they allow the bodies of the victims to be repatriated and provide uninhibited access to the crash site to enable a proper international investigation of what happened to flight MH17. Secondly, President Putin must use his influence to end the conflict in Ukraine by halting supplies and training for the separatists. Thirdly, we must establish proper long-term relationships between Ukraine and Russia; between Ukraine and the European Union; and, above all, between Russia and the European Union, NATO and the wider west. Let me take each of those points in turn.
The first priority remains ensuring that there is proper access to the crash site to repatriate the bodies and investigate what happened. The UK has sent air accident investigators and a police-led victim identification team to help the international effort. The Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency Situations has searched an area of 32 sq km around the crash site and recovered 272 bodies. The work has been made more difficult by the presence of armed separatists. The bodies sitting on a refrigerated train have still not been allowed to leave. The pictures of victims’ personal belongings being gone through are a further sickening violation of the tragic scene. It is welcome that international experts have been able to visit the site, but this should not have taken four days, and even now they are still not getting the unimpeded access that they need.
I spoke to President Putin last night and made it clear that there can be no more bluster or obfuscation. We expect him to help right now by using his influence with the pro-Russian separatists to secure full access for international investigators, and to support the repatriation of the bodies by handing them over to the appropriate authorities and ensuring that they are treated with dignity. Families want information and answers, and we must make sure that they get them. The UK and Australia have tabled a joint resolution at the United Nations Security Council demanding proper access in support of a credible international investigation, and we expect that resolution to be voted on this evening.
Secondly, I also made it clear to President Putin that we expect Russia to end its support for the separatists and their attempts to further destabilise Ukraine. No one is saying that President Putin intended flight MH17 to be shot down—it is unlikely that even the separatists wanted this to happen—but we should be absolutely clear about what caused this terrible tragedy to happen. The context for this tragedy is Russia’s attempt to destabilise a sovereign state, violate its territorial integrity, and arm and train thuggish militias.
Over the past month there has been an increasing amount of heavy weaponry crossing the border from Russia to separatist fighters in Ukraine, and there is evidence that Russia has been providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in south-west Russia, including training on air defence systems. Seconds before flight MH17 dropped out of contact, a surface-to-air missile launch was detected from a separatist-controlled area in south-eastern Ukraine. According to expert analysis, an SA-11 is the most likely missile type. In an intercepted conversation, a known separatist leader was overheard claiming that a separatist faction had downed an aircraft. Another separatist leader claimed on Twitter at about the same time to have shot down an aircraft, while a video on social media over the weekend showed an SA-11 missile system, missing at least one missile, travelling back towards Russia. Those who argue that the Ukrainians could be responsible need to explain all of this. In addition, there is no evidence that Ukrainian forces have fired a single surface-to-air missile during the conflict, and no Ukrainian air defence systems appear to have been within range of the crash. By contrast, pro-Russian separatist fighters have downed more than a dozen Ukrainian aircraft over the past few months, including two transport aircraft, so the picture is becoming clearer and the weight of evidence is pointing in one direction: MH17 was shot down by an SA-11 missile fired by separatists.
Thirdly, this is a defining moment for Russia. The world is watching, and President Putin faces a clear choice in how he decides to respond to this appalling tragedy. I hope that he will use this moment to find a path out of this festering and dangerous crisis by ending Russia’s support for the separatists, but if he does not change his approach to Ukraine in that way, Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia.
Those of us in Europe should not need to be reminded of the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries. We should not shrink from standing up for the principles that govern conduct between independent nations in Europe, and that ultimately keep the peace on our continent. For too long there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine. It is time to make our power, influence and resources felt.
Over the weekend I agreed with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande that we should push our partners in the European Union to consider a new range of hard-hitting economic sanctions against Russia. We should take the first step at the Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels tomorrow, and if Russia does not change course, then we must be clear that Europe must keep increasing the pressure. Russia cannot expect to continue enjoying access to European markets, European capital and European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe’s neighbours. We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia and put an end to the conflict in Ukraine before any more innocent lives are lost.
Let me now turn to the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza. The crisis was triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities, indiscriminately targeting civilians in contravention of all humanitarian law and norms. In the last fortnight, Hamas has fired 1,850 rockets at Israeli cities. This unprecedented barrage continues to this moment, with Hamas rejecting all proposals for a ceasefire, including those put forward by the Egyptian Government.
I have been clear throughout this crisis that Israel has the right to defend itself. Those criticising Israel’s response must ask themselves how they would expect their own Government to react if hundreds of rockets were raining down on British cities today. But I share the grave concern of many in the international community about the heavy toll of civilian casualties. The figures are very disturbing. More than 500 people have now reportedly been killed in Gaza, and over 3,000 injured. The UN estimates that over 83,000 people have been displaced so far. Israel has also faced loss of life, with 18 soldiers and two civilians killed, including 13 soldiers yesterday alone.
I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu again about this crisis last night. I repeated our recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, and our condemnation of Hamas’s refusal to end its rocket attacks, despite all international efforts to broker a ceasefire. But I urged him do everything to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint, and to help find ways to bring this situation to an end. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that Israel had been ready to accept each of these ceasefire proposals and had unilaterally implemented a temporary ceasefire in the hope that Hamas would follow suit.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to President Abbas to welcome his support for a ceasefire and underline our wish to see the Palestinian Authority back in Gaza. The United Nations Security Council met in a special session last night and issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. The Council expressed serious concern about rising casualties, and called for respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians. We strongly endorse that call. It is vital that Hamas recognises the need to enter into serious negotiations to end this crisis. In particular, we urge Hamas to engage with the ceasefire proposals put forward by the Egyptian Government. It is only by securing a ceasefire that the space can be created to address the underlying issues and return to the long and painstaking task of building the lasting and secure peace that we all want to see, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and advance sight of it.
The shooting down of MH17 over the skies of Ukraine was a tragedy that shocked the world. On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, who is visiting Washington, I join the Prime Minister in expressing our heartfelt and deepest sympathy to the relatives of those who have lost their lives. All of us have been outraged by the images of the site left open for anyone to trample over, and the way that the bodies of the deceased have been handled with what looks like casual indifference. We have all been horrified, but what must it be like for the families of the deceased to see that?
Those families face not only grief and loss, but multiple practical issues. Will the Prime Minister identify a senior Minister to co-ordinate support for them? That role was performed by my right hon. Friend Dame Tessa Jowell after 9/11, 7/7 and the tsunami. Will he ensure that his Government do everything they can to enable the international community to help secure the site, repatriate the bodies, and gather the evidence that shows who is responsible? Does he agree that as soon as the investigation of the disaster is complete, there should be an emergency meeting of European Heads of Government to consider what further steps should be taken? It appears that international civil aviation regulators imposed no restrictions on crossing that part of eastern Ukraine. In the light of the attack on flight MH17, is there now specific travel advice for British citizens planning to go abroad?
As the Prime Minister set out in his statement, evidence is growing that this was not simply a tragedy but a terrible crime. Surely this is a moment of reckoning for Europe. This is the moment for a strong and determined EU to step up to its responsibilities and confront the Russian actions. Europe must show its sorrow, but it must also show its strength. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to seek a toughening of EU sanctions against Russia at tomorrow’s EU Council meeting. Will he tell the House what measures he wants to be considered? Will he support decisive steps to extend sanctions not just against specific individuals but against Russian commercial organisations, to dissuade President Putin from the supply of arms and the support for separatists that he is now providing across the Russian border?
Turning to the horror that is unfolding in Gaza, it is intolerable to see the harrowing images of hospitals overwhelmed, mortuaries overflowing and parents devastated as they cradle their dying children. Yesterday the world stood witness to the most bloodstained day. Since the start of this conflict, 20 Israelis have been killed, 18 of whom were soldiers. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed, including countless children—innocent young children whose short lives have been ended in the most brutal and horrific of circumstances.
We cannot reduce this conflict to a ledger of casualties, but we must acknowledge the scale of suffering in Gaza, because the life of a Palestinian child is worth every bit as much as that of an Israeli child. Every death of a Palestinian child will fuel the hatred, embolden Israel’s enemies and recruit more supporters to terrorist groups such as Hamas. We stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself, but this escalation will not bring Israel lasting security.
Does the Prime Minister agree with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that we must continue to press for an immediate ceasefire, an immediate end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza, and an end to the rocket fire by Hamas; that all sides must respect international humanitarian law; and that Israel must exercise maximum restraint?
What is the Prime Minister’s view of the report suggesting that Israel is using flechette shells? Does he agree that the only way to avoid the cycle of violence and perpetual insecurity in the region is to address the root causes of the conflict and that there must be an immediate return to the negotiating table and talks on a two-state solution? As Ban Ki-moon said:
“Israelis, but also Palestinians, need to feel a sense of security. Palestinians, but also Israelis, need to see a horizon of hope.”
I thank Ms Harman for her response and also for her condolences for those who have lost loved ones. She is absolutely right to say that what has happened over the skies of Ukraine is a deeply human tragedy; that is how we should see it first and foremost. Our thoughts should be with the victims and their families and on the need to get those bodies off the site and to have that site properly dealt with. That is our first priority. She asked a number of specific questions and made some specific points. On the consular work that is being done, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds, is leading on that. In time, I will want to discuss directly with the victims’ families how best we can take care of all their needs and concerns.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked whether there should be an EU Heads of State/Heads of Government European Council emergency meeting. I certainly do not rule it out, but, in the first instance, we should task our Foreign Ministers, who are meeting on Tuesday night, to set out the tough measures that are necessary to show that Europe is heading on a different path. Then she asked about the travel advice to UK citizens. Of course, Eurocontrol is the organisation that sets the parameters for where aeroplanes can and cannot fly, whereas we give advice about individual countries to which people should and should not travel, and that information is regularly updated on the Foreign Office website.
The right hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right to say that this is a moment of reckoning for Europe, and I very much hope that the European Council will not be found wanting. She asked specifically about the steps that should be taken. As she knows, we have the tier 2 sanctions, some of which have already been put in place, but there is more that can be done, such as naming individuals and increasing the number of asset freezes and travel bans. I suggested at the European Council last week that that number should be broadened to include the cronies and oligarchs around President Putin and other leaders, even if there is not a direct link between them and Crimea and Ukraine. I made some progress on that on Wednesday night, and I hope to make some more progress. It is time to start to go into the tier 3 sanctions. For instance, future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain. A number of other suggestions were made about airlines and banks, particularly those connected with Crimea, which have not yet been acted on, so there is a whole set of things that needs to be put in train with a very clear message.
On Gaza, the right hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right that we cannot look at the situation in terms of a ledger of casualties. Again, this is a deeply human tragedy. Anyone seeing those pictures in Gaza of the children running across the beach before their young lives are snuffed out—as a father of three, I cannot help but be incredibly moved by that. What is happening in Gaza is absolutely heartbreaking. We have to be clear, though, about how this could most quickly be brought to an end: that is for Hamas to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. If they stop those, all the other things that we need—the end of the Israeli operation, and the ceasefire—would be in place.
Again, I agree with the right hon. and learned Lady on the root causes of this. We need to make progress with the two-state solution. That is not going to happen while we do not have a ceasefire and while Hamas is subjecting Israel to rocket attacks. That is the root cause of this, and that is the thing that needs to change and change quickly in order to bring peace to the middle east.
Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that since visa controls and asset freezes have been introduced, President Putin has illegally annexed Crimea and sent in his special forces and so-called volunteers to fight with the insurgents to try to further dismember Ukraine? He has now been responsible for the missile launcher that brought down the international civil airliner. Is it not time to acknowledge that asset freezes and visa controls are useless as a way of influencing his policy, and that the only measures that will influence him are those that go for his Achilles heel? It is not just the United Kingdom but Europe, the United States and as many other countries as are willing to take part who should introduce financial, banking and widespread economic sanctions.
I think my right hon. and learned Friend, who speaks with great experience, is right. The point I would make is that there have been occasions when the relatively modest measures taken so far have had an effect on the Russian stock market, the Russian currency, Russian investment and Russian growth. Those issues have had an effect, but it is quite clear that we need to do more and we need to it rapidly.
Surely friends of Israel, like the Prime Minister and I, have a duty at this time to speak the truth? These attacks, despite the horrendous rocket assaults on Israel and the extremism of Hamas, are not “disproportionate”; in any other conflict they would be described as war crimes. That is the truth. The problem also is that there is no end in sight to this. What will happen, a moderate Palestinian leadership having been replaced by Hamas through the failure to succeed in negotiations, is that Hamas, as the respected former Israeli Government adviser Daniel Levy has suggested, could soon be replaced by ISIS in Gaza. We have to start, as the west, speaking the truth, acting and persuading the Israeli Government to negotiate seriously.
As a friend of Israel—the right hon. Gentleman said that he is one too—I think we should always speak the truth, and I always have done with Israel, for instance in the case of illegal settlements. But I think another element of the truth is that if Hamas stopped the rocket attacks on Israel, the Israeli operation in Gaza would end and there would be a ceasefire. The point that the Israeli Prime Minister makes, which I think is a legitimate one, is that there have been a number of occasions when he has unilaterally declared or agreed to a ceasefire, but Hamas will not follow suit. I absolutely agree that we need to speak the truth, but the truth must start with an end to these attacks.
Does the Prime Minister agree that within the next few days negotiations should be concluded between the member states of the European Union on a proper sharing of the economic burden that will fall on our own economies from economic sanctions? Does he also agree that if this outrageous behaviour is not met with truly effective sanctions, the west faces very grave problems in the next few years from Russian behaviour across the rest of central and eastern Europe, including the Balkan states and the Baltic states inside the Union itself?
My right hon. and learned Friend makes two extremely good points. First, we have to make sure that when tier 3 sanctions come—and they should come—they cover areas such as financial services, defence and energy. That will affect different countries in different ways, but we need to ensure that we are all effectively sharing in the burden. Britain has been clear that we are willing to do that. The second point he makes is that those who argue that the effect of sanctions will be to damage our own economies are missing the bigger point, which is that our economic future is bound up with our economic security. We will lose that diplomatic and economic security if we do not confront the fact that one country in Europe is now being destabilised by Russia, and if we let this happen, others will follow.
Europe must send a far stronger message to Russia about what has happened and its responsibility for putting it right, so will the Prime Minister say how other European leaders have responded to his proposals for additional sanctions and how likely they are to agree them?
First, I join the hon. Lady in sending our condolences to Richard Mayne’s family and friends for their loss.
On what other European leaders have said, we discussed Ukraine and sanctions last week, but I believe that, since then, things have changed and things need to change. On what I agreed with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, there is now a willingness to consider a package of sanctions that includes important measures in what I have called the third tier of sanctions, and obviously the Dutch Prime Minister, having suffered this huge loss to his country, will want to engage directly in this debate as well. It will not be easy, because we will have to agree everything together in the European Council, but I think the whole world can see what happens when there is a Russian leader who has been fomenting unrest in another country and potentially supplying the weapons that could have brought down this plane. It is a toxic mixture that has led to this tragedy, and if we do not do something it could happen again.
My right hon. Friend asks what the reaction should be here, were we to be subject to such rocket attacks as those sustained by Israel. As a Member of Parliament, I would ask—indeed, demand—that our Government respond in a proportionate way, consistent with international law and with proper regard for the safety of innocent men, women and children. With all the sophisticated military technology at its disposal, can Israel really protect itself only by the kind of operations that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has called “atrocious”?
Of course, we would urge every country to act in a way that is proportionate and consistent with international law. We believe in those norms of international law and uphold them ourselves, but it is worth putting ourselves for a minute in the shoes of the Israeli people who have suffered these rocket attacks and who quite sensibly ask their Government to take action to try to prevent them in the future.
Will the right hon. Gentleman condemn outright the Israeli massacre over the weekend at Shujai’iya of 67 Palestinian innocents whom Netanyahu has obscenely described as “telegenically dead”, together with the four innocent people killed today by the Israeli direct hit on the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades’ hospital? Will he also increase the Government’s valuable aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency? Some 67,000 Palestinians have fled to its refuge centres, but they are running out of water and money to feed them. While in no way condoning the actions of Hamas, I ask him to point out to Netanyahu, on the evidence of the two previous Israeli attacks on Gaza, that he can kill, but he cannot win.
First, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are increasing our funding for UNWRA to the tune of £2 million, as the International Development Secretary made clear this morning, and, as he knows, we are a significant donor to the Palestinian Authority and the humanitarian causes that need to be supported in the Palestinian Territories, and will continue to be. We do not support the idea that it is acceptable to have civilian casualties, and we would condemn the deliberate targeting of civilians—it is contrary to international law—but I repeat what I have already said: we have urged the Israelis to demonstrate restraint, to avoid civilian casualties and to find ways to bring this to an end, but the fastest way this can come to an end is for Hamas to stop firing rockets.
The crisis in Ukraine not only exposes the brutality and malign intent of the Putin regime but is a test of the west’s moral fibre, following our inadequate response to the
Estonian cyber-attack, Ukrainian gas being cut off, the invasion of Georgia and, most recently, our unwillingness to deal with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Germany, France and Italy are responsible for 90% of defence exports to Russia. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the leaders of those three counties and in particular with President Hollande about the €1.2 billion export order of Mistral vessels to Russia? It is not just future export orders that must be stopped, but current ones.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that this is a test of Europe’s fibre—of proving that we can stand up to these threats and do so in a way that is consistent, firm and predictable. That is what needs to happen, so that Russia knows what the result of these types of actions will be. On the issue of defence equipment, we already unilaterally said—as did the US—that we would not sell further arms to Russia; we believe other European countries should do the same. Frankly, in this country it would be unthinkable to fulfil an order like the one outstanding that the French have, but we need to put the pressure on with all our partners to say that we cannot go on doing business as usual with a country when it is behaving in this way.
The Ukrainian separatists have managed to acquire heavy weapons, armour, missile systems and, now, refrigerated trains. They are, beyond argument, an extension of the Kremlin’s power and policy. A gesture strategy simply will not do; we need economic disentanglement, we need effective sanctions and we need, in the face of this kind of regime, to re-examine our security policy, along with that of our allies. Does the Prime Minister not agree?
First, I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman that so much of what we see in eastern Ukraine is actually being controlled remotely or at one remove by the Kremlin. I think there is growing evidence for that, and we should be clear that this is not simply a home-grown resistance movement. There are Russian personnel, there is Russian backing, there are Russian weapons systems, and despite repeated requests that the border be properly closed, that has not happened.
I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman as well that we need to take a tough, clear and predictable approach. We have got to explain to Russia that it cannot expect a normal relationship with the EU, Britain or the US if it continues to behave in this way, so what is required, as he says, is a tough, clear and predictable response. In examining our own security, that is something quite rightly done in the strategic defence and security review.
Sanctions have a justifiable purpose when they successfully target the right people, but they often have unintended consequences and penalise those for whom they were not intended. Given the lack of any judicial or parliamentary process to oversee sanctions, will the Prime Minister establish a focal point in Government to which those who think they have been unfairly hit by them can turn to seek urgent redress for their grievance?
The purpose of the sanctions we have put in place so far is not simply to target the right people, although that of course has been part of the aim, but, quite deliberately, to have the broader effect of demonstrating to the Russians that when it comes to the economy, energy and these things, Russia needs the EU and America more than the EU and America need Russia. Yes, of course there will sometimes be some collateral damage to people who suffer because of sanctions, but in this case the only way to bring home to the Russians that their approach is damaging for them is for them to see that the Russian economy will suffer as a result.
May I thank the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman for so cogently expressing the grief and anger, which I believe is shared across the House—indeed, across the whole country—over the appalling events in Ukraine? They are quite right to stress that the primary concern is the immediate, unimpeded access to the site and the treatment of the bodies with dignity and humanity. Is there any timeline on this desire? If sanctions do not work, will the international community examine the possibility of criminal charges being brought against those who are responsible?
I think the hon. Lady is right to say that the primary concern relates to the dignity of the victims and securing the site, and ensuring that everything possible is done to handle that properly. Time is running out. Daily temperatures in eastern Ukraine are now exceeding 30 degrees, so things need to be done very quickly. The pressure is already on, and progress is being made—international experts are now on the site—but problems such as the train not being able to move have not yet been solved.
I believe that we should think of sanctions not only in the context of securing a proper international investigation, but much more in the context of the longer-term problem, which is Russian involvement in the destabilisation of Ukraine. That is, if you like, the cause that led to this dreadful chain of events. Criminal sanctions should not be ruled out. If we believe all that we are being told about what has happened, this was a crime.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Russians will laugh at us unless the European Union, this country, NATO and the wider world do not use their resources, power and influence properly, and show evidence of their real determination? If they do not, the Russians will step into the vacuum, to our great disadvantage.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. During debates on these matters in the European Union, it is often the countries that have the most to lose from economic sanctions that are the strongest supporters of them. The leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania speak very passionately about the issue, even though their countries will suffer, because they are aware of the consequences of not standing up to a bully. In our EU debates, it tends to be Britain that backs those countries in favour of tough action, and I hope that we shall be able to make more progress in the future than we have made up to now.
The Prime Minister said that the most recent bloodshed in Gaza and Israel had started with the Hamas rocket attacks. I deplore those attacks, but does the Prime Minister not accept that they are not happening in a vacuum, but are a consequence of the ongoing Israeli occupation and siege of Gaza? Given that this is the latest in a long line of Israeli breaches of international law, does he recognise the growing movement that is calling for an embargo on all military co-operation with Israel?
I do not think that we should in any way seek to justify or explain away rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel. [Interruption.] That is, I am afraid, rather what it sounded like. We must be absolutely clear about the fact that we condemn those rocket attacks, and must make it clear that if they stopped there would be a ceasefire, and we could then make progress.
Yesterday I was in contact with the director of the International Commission on Missing Persons, the excellent international body supported by the United Kingdom Government which has done such fine work in the Balkans and Iraq to identify the victims of violence. It has been asked by the Ukrainians to go and help to identify victims of the Ukrainian air crash. Will my right hon. Friend impress on the authorities that have custody of the bodies that it is a matter not just of dignity, but of identification? You cannot repatriate until you identify. Will he give every support to the ICMP in terms of the representations that must be made to enable it to do its vital work on behalf of the families who so desperately want to have their loved ones back?
I will certainly look very closely at what my right hon. Friend has suggested. As he knows, we have police victim identification teams that are going out to Ukraine, and they will be able to help. The work that they and other international experts do is absolutely vital.
Putin’s is a barbarous and a murdering regime—we have known that for a long time. We know what happened to Anna Politkovskaya, to Alexander Litvinenko—in this country—and to Sergei Magnitsky, who worked for a British company in Russia. Let me ask the Prime Minister this, for the seventh time in this Parliament: will he please make it absolutely clear that, as the House agreed unanimously on
I welcome the Prime Minister’s determination that Russia must cease its support for the separatists, but surely, as my right hon. Friends have said, the time for empty threats is over. Surely all civilised Governments, not just European Union members, must now combine to adopt really effective sanctions in order to make clear to Mr Putin that he can no longer pursue his lawless banditry with impunity.
May I also ask, on a technical note, whether the Prime Minister can tell us anything about the location of the black boxes, and whether the air accidents investigation branch, which is based in Farnborough in my constituency, has had access to them yet?
The answer on the black boxes is that we have seen the reports that they have been taken away by separatists and we have not seen anything to contradict that. They certainly have not yet been seen by air accidents investigation branch members from the United Kingdom. As for what else my hon. Friend says, I agree with him: a tough, predictable and clear response is required.
What representations has the Prime Minister ever made to the Government of Israel concerning its illegal settlements, its occupation of the west bank and the siege of Gaza, which has gone on for a long time and has led to 70% unemployment? Does he not think that the current crisis and the carnage in Gaza is caused essentially by the failure of Israel ever to recognise the rights, needs or justice of the Palestinian people, and does he not think it is time Britain did something about it, such as by doing that?
To answer the hon. Gentleman’s question specifically, I have repeatedly made references—including in speeches and television appearances, including in Israel—to illegal settlements and illegal occupation. I remember, on my first visit to Israel, in East Jerusalem referring to it as occupied East Jerusalem, and I was quite surprised when one of the Foreign Office officials said it is very refreshing to have someone who is as clear about that, because the then Government were not always clear about it when they were asked the question.
My right hon. Friend rightly emphasised the needs of the victims and their families. Does he accept that sometimes media reporting can be insensitive and can create greater bereavement and distress as a result, and will he urge the media to try to do whatever they can to make sure the situation is not made worse by the reporting?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. Having watched some of this absolutely harrowing coverage, there are moments when it is clear people are leafing through personal belongings and suitcases in a way that is completely inappropriate. It has mostly been the separatists who have been doing that, but there have been occasions, I think, when mistakes have been made by members of the press. People have to understand that this is effectively a murder scene, but also a scene where there are people’s loved ones, whom they are desperately worried about and want to know whether they will be able to be brought home, and people should behave in an appropriate way.
While Israel is rightly claiming its right of self-defence under international law, we cannot have international law for the Israelis and another international law for the Palestinians, and when is Britain, and more importantly the United States, going to bring pressure to bear to get the Israelis to comply with international law, to end the blockade of Gaza and the settlements on the west bank?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that international law should apply to everybody, and in what we say to the Israelis we stress the fact that, although they have a right to self-defence, in order to be legal self-defence has to be carried out in a way that is proportionate, and that is why we have been urging restraint. So we are very clear: international law applies to all sides.
I commend the Prime Minister for the Government’s response thus far and wish him well in his talks with the European leaders in the days and weeks ahead. During those talks, will he remind other European leaders that Russia, as well as its activities in Ukraine, remains the largest supplier of arms to the Assad regime, and that some of those arms have been passed to extremist groups and thereby threaten our, and other European nations’, national interests and citizens?
My right hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, and we should keep reminding other European leaders of that point. What this is all about in the end is Europe’s continued security, on which our prosperity depends, and sometimes we have to take action that can be painful and difficult in the short term in order to deliver the longer term security and prosperity we want.
I entirely accept the Prime Minister’s sincerity in condemning what happened to Palestinian civilians over the weekend, but if what did occur—100 killed yesterday, so many more injured; as he said himself, four young lads playing hide and seek last week slaughtered by Israeli shelling—are not war crimes, what are war crimes?
What is certainly a war crime is launching unprovoked missile attacks on to the sovereign territory of another country—I think we should be very clear about that. It is absolutely a crime against international law and we should be very clear about it. But we should be equally clear, as we are, that Israel, in acting in self-defence, must do so within international law.
In Gaza, much has been made of what is and is not “proportionate”. The argument is being made that it should be an eye for an eye, but in international law the correct definition is that the response should be proportionate “to the threat”. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Israel has no alternative but to go to find who is firing the missiles at it and to stop them?
My right hon. Friend, with his experience as Chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, is right to quote that important definition of international law—that is the correct position. That is why Israel, understandably, feels under pressure to try to stop the missile attacks that have brought this situation about.
“I think it is important not to overstate the extent to which what has happened in Ukraine has come as a surprise to us.”
He also said it was a bit like what happened in Georgia. We did not think that was accurate on
What I say to the hon. Lady is that we have the fifth largest budget defence budget in the world, and we have altered our spending so that our defence forces are more flexible, more deployable and more useful for the needs we have today. When we look at the challenge with Ukraine, we see that nobody is talking about deploying military assets into Ukraine; what we are talking about is using Europe’s combined financial resources and power to inflict on Russia an approach that means it has to change its course. It is actually political will that is required, rather than an immediate strategic defence review.
My right hon. Friend has led the charge in trying to get our European friends to increase sanctions against Russia, but can he tell the House what actually influences Putin? Many people looking from the outside will feel that we are unable to change his behaviour, at least in the short term.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I think the only thing that will influence Russia’s strategic thinking about Ukraine is a sense that the rest of the world is actually going to team up and put in place sanctions that will damage Russia’s economy. As I said, in the end Russia needs Europe and America more than America and Europe need Russia, and we need to make the balance in that relationship show in order to change Russia’s thinking. It is not acceptable to destabilise Ukraine and instead the Russians should be seeking a civilised relationship with Ukraine. That is what we have to make them think about, and it is going to take tough action.
May I, too, commend the Prime Minister for the efforts he has made over the weekend? May I also urge him to see the relatives of the British victims as quickly as possible, as they must be not only grief stricken but totally bewildered about what is happening? The key thing is not to leave Ukraine on its own. Are we prepared to share any intelligence information with the Ukrainian Government to help them with this terrible threat to their security?
First, I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about the victims, and I certainly am available to have a meeting with their families and talk to them about all the concerns they have. Immediately, the concerns are the consular issues that need to be dealt with, and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mark Simmonds, is doing that.
The right hon. Gentleman’s other question was about sharing intelligence, and we have already done that with the Ukrainian Government. Lots of countries have information about what happened. Russia, specifically, will have a lot of information about what happened. As I said to Putin on the telephone last night, he should make that information available, in the same way as the Americans and others have made that information available. He could probably put beyond doubt, if he wanted to, what actually happened over the skies of eastern Ukraine, and I urge him to do so.
If the gangsters in the Kremlin and their sock puppets in the Russian media do not understand the enormity of bringing down a civil aeroplane on an international route, should we not at least consider whether Russian commercial carriers are any more welcome in sovereign airspace in the civilised world?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. All these issues need to be considered in the context of bringing together what Europe can do collectively to send the clearest possible message to Russia.
Does the outrage in Ukraine call for a speedy review of the international rules on the safety of flying over conflict zones? Does the much-needed call for a ceasefire in Gaza include a call for the end of Hamas’s terror tunnels and does the Prime Minister agree that they, too, are a war crime?
I strongly agree with what the hon. Lady has just said about Hamas, as I mentioned a few moments ago. In terms of the rules governing which airline should fly on which routes, I have asked the Secretary of State for Transport to consider the issue carefully. Eurocontrol is the organisation that sets out the parameters for European flights and obviously airlines themselves have to choose whether to continue with those flights. We are going to look very carefully at whether more needs to be done in this area.
Even if the Prime Minister will not accept the call from Ms Stuart for some reappraisal of the defence strategy after these terrible events, will he not accept that the national security strategy was written some four years ago, before Iraq, before Syria, before these events and before Ukraine? Surely it is now time for a fundamental reappraisal of our position in the world.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the important thing about a national security strategy and a strategic defence and security review is that they should be regularly refreshed. That is why we are planning to do that next year. We start with the strategy and then move on to what that actually means in practice, but I do not think that we should do this every time a new event takes place. We should have a proper process for setting out these things and that is what we will do.
For the avoidance of doubt, will the Prime Minister agree that the targeting of civilians or wilful disregard for the lives of civilians is a crime, whether those civilians are flying in a civilian aircraft, sheltering in their homes in south Israel or sheltering in their homes in Gaza? Is he aware that Israel has a history of using UK-supplied arms and components in contravention of the EU consolidated criteria? Would he consider Israel’s use of British-supplied arms or components in Gaza today to be in contravention of those criteria, is he asking Israel whether they are or whether they are not and what answer is he getting?
First, let me agree with the hon. Gentleman that the deliberate targeting of civilians is illegal. It is illegal whoever is doing it and we do not support it on any basis, so I would agree with him about that. As for the European Union rules to which he refers, we always ensure that we comply with them.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the unspeakable events in eastern Ukraine tell us that Putin’s Russia is now as big a threat to democratic values as Islamist terrorism? Does he also agree that unless we in the west have collectively a much stronger response than we have had so far, we are in danger of drifting into another cold war with fighting conducted by proxy armies, which would blight the economic and social progress of a generation? Will he commit the British Government to doing as much as possible in the coming months to avoid that terrible prospect?
My right hon. Friend speaks clearly and sensibly about this. We must recognise the scale of the threat that Russia’s actions in Ukraine represent. When one sits in the European Council and listens to the testimony of the Baltic states or countries such as Romania, with their concerns about what is happening in Transnistria, one can see that if we do not act on this occasion firmly, clearly and consistently, while totally changing the approach we have taken, there will be other such problems to come.
What is the Government’s assessment of the reports that the Israelis are using illegal white phosphorus as part of their illegal campaign in Gaza? Will he condemn the use of any chemical weapons in Gaza, as he has been so quick to do on other occasions?
I would certainly condemn the use of chemical weapons, whoever is using them. I have not seen reports or any evidence of the use of the weapons to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I shall look very closely at the points that he makes.
After the immediate practical considerations in Ukraine, the thoughts of many of the families and other countries will turn to justice. Can the Prime Minister say what can be done to identify the individuals who perpetrated this atrocity and where he thinks the jurisdiction will lie? Will it be with the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice or elsewhere?
It should be possible, if every country produces the evidence that it has, to piece together exactly what happened. From the information so far made available, we know the height of the plane and the trajectory and starting point, approximately, of the missile, and the evidential picture, as I described, is building all the time. But if the Russians were to make available all the information that they surely have, it would be much easier to have a very clear picture. On where this could be justiciable, we are looking very closely at that. My right hon. Friend may well be right that the International Criminal Court could come into play.
The only proposal on the table currently is the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and a process. We have said that we back that, the Israelis are willing to back that, and we need Hamas to back that as well. Everyone who can should bring their pressure to bear. All those countries that have a relationship with Hamas—of course, we do not because it does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and it believes in violence—should bring that pressure to bear.
One of the people tragically lost on flight MH17 was Glenn Thomas, a British national who worked for the World Health Organisation and who was known to a number of us in this House through his work with our all-party parliamentary groups, including the group on global tuberculosis. His loss was a great shock to us. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to his work and to those who were travelling to the world AIDS conference? Do not the values of the World Health Organisation and that conference, the values of internationalism and respect for human rights, stand in stark contrast to the disregard for such values shown by Russia, the aggressor?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. I certainly join him in paying tribute to Glenn Thomas and in sending our condolences to his family and friends. The World Health Organisation and specifically the work that has been done on diseases such as TB, malaria and AIDS has been staggeringly successful and it is a beacon for what we can achieve if we spend aid moneys wisely and sensibly and work together as a global community. My right hon. Friend is right—what a contrast between that lifesaving effort and the brutality of what we have seen on our television screens.
Events over the weekend have been horrendous. What is going on in Gaza is atrocious. Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives on flight MH17 in Ukraine. One of my constituents, John Alder, was on that flight. Along with Liam Sweeney from Newcastle, John was going to see Newcastle United play in a pre-season tournament in New Zealand. John was an extraordinary man because of the sort of football supporter he was. He went to see every game that Newcastle played—no matter where it was in the world—but he lost his life in that dreadful disaster. Newcastle and Sunderland supporters have united in paying tribute to those lads and in raising funds for charities and for a funeral service. Can we get their bodies home, please, Mr Prime Minister?
We are doing everything we can, with international partners, to try and make that happen. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is right to pay tribute to John Alder, Liam Sweeney and all those who lost their lives. It is heartbreaking—the families that have been ripped apart and the lives that have been snuffed out due to this appalling tragedy. We have to think very carefully—the deputy Leader of the Opposition raised this issue—about how best we can talk to the families and hear about how they want to commemorate and remember their loved ones. That is something that was done with great sensitivity following 7/7 and we must make sure we do the same on this occasion.
Under the good stewardship of my right hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend Dr Fox, we brought the astonishing, appalling chaos of the Ministry of Defence finances under control and they are now on an even keel. Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister said to our hon. Friend Mr Gray, does he not feel that a sign of our determination to the increasingly bellicose and aggressive Putin, and to the situation in Syria and Iraq and a lamentably long list of other places around the world, might be to now reconsider opening the strategic defence and security review and perhaps spending more on defence rather than less?
First, I thank my right hon. Friend for his service in the Ministry of Defence and in the Northern Ireland Office. Because of the work that he and others have done, we now face a situation in which the defence budget is not being cut. Having sorted out the black hole in the defence budget, we now have the launch of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the biggest ship ever delivered to the Royal Navy, with the Type 45 destroyers, the hunter-killer submarines, the A400Ms and the joint strike fighters all to arrive. So we have a drumbeat of superb, deployable, high-tech, world-beating equipment so that we can ensure that our country is safe long into the future. There is a proper time to consider whether the events that we see today fundamentally change the strategy and the laydown that we need, and we will do that at the right time.
A year ago, the House took a decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, and that was quickly followed by a similar decision by the United States. These decisions were both coloured by a reaction to long military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Prime Minister is right that the shooting down of this airliner was the responsibility of Russian-backed separatists armed by Russia, how will he ensure a robust response in the light of that mood, that affects both politics and political decision-making, which shows that we have not lost our ability to act or our willingness to stand up for what we believe in?
I agree with the sentiment behind what the right hon. Gentleman said absolutely. It is true that Britain is war weary after Iraq and Afghanistan. I still believe that if the challenge came along where we were asked to serve alongside others to protect our national interests, this House and the country would answer the call. But in this case we are not talking about military intervention; we are talking about, with our partners and with like-minded countries, using our economic and financial muscle in the world to demonstrate what I have said, which is that Russia needs European markets far more than we need Russian markets, and we need to make that strength show. But we will only do it, as he says, with an exercise of political will.
Last week, when the then Foreign Secretary made a statement on Gaza, the death toll of Palestinian children in the conflict since 2000 stood at 1,430. Today it is reported at 1,472. When democracies depart from the rule of law, they give legal and moral authority to our enemies. Israel is in consistent and, today, grievous breach of the Geneva conventions. What is my right hon. Friend doing to bring Israel back within the rule of law?
As I said earlier, I spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister last night, and while I said that we believe in Israel’s right to defend itself, we believe that it needs to exercise restraint, to avoid civilian casualties and to find ways of bringing this to a close. But the best way to bring this to a close is the fastest way, and that is for the rocket attacks to stop.
The revelation to waiting cameras of the previous advice to the Government about the possible effect of sanctions against Russia on the City of London, gave the dreadful impression that the UK, too, was just following its own narrow interests, when, frankly, London would be much better off without much of that tainted Russian money. After this latest abominable act, is it not time for much harsher financial sanctions against Russia, including the denial of use at all levels of international payment systems in London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York and all across the world?
These are all things that can be looked at as we look at tier 3 sanctions. But when it comes to Britain’s negotiation within the EU over these issues, although, as the hon. Gentleman says, there are a lot of Russian money and Russian businesses in Britain, Britain is not the back marker in arguing for tougher sanctions; we are usually in the vanguard, with the Poles and Baltic states, arguing that we need to give a strong, clear and predictable lead on these issues. It is not those interests that are holding us back.
May I echo the Prime Minister’s sympathy for the victims of Flight MH17, and indeed for the even greater number who have died and continue to die in Gaza? He emphasised the movement of heavy equipment from Russia into Ukraine, and indeed there is evidence of rocket launchers being hastily moved back into Russia the day after the crash. As a signatory to the Budapest memorandum, what can this country do to offer more advice or practical assistance of some kind to the Government of Ukraine to help them at least secure their frontier with Russia?
We certainly work closely with the Ukrainian Government and have a strong relationship with them, and I have spoken with President Poroshenko in recent days. In terms of securing the border, I think that the person who could make the biggest difference is President Putin, because at the moment it is being used as a porous border to smuggle weapons and people into Ukraine to destabilise the country. It is the Russians who could stop that happening if they wanted to.
Order. As we are fortunate to have the Prime Minister with us, and as the summer recess is approaching, which means this might be the last occasion upon which he is with us before the House rises, I am keen to accommodate the interest of colleagues, but if I am to have any serious chance of doing so, I will require brevity. Perhaps the textbook example can be provided by the author of “How to be a Backbencher”, Mr Paul Flynn.
It is good that the NATO summit will be held in Newport. I think that the opportunity to demonstrate the unity of NATO, and indeed its original purpose, which was to provide collective security, could not have come at a better time.
The hon. Gentleman’s book must be due for a further reprint.
Will my right hon. Friend recognise that the utility of military force, and of having enough of it, is not what one might wish to deploy in combat now, but what one has available to shape the global strategic environment, which many would rightly say is what we lack today?
I agree with my hon. Friend that it is what we have available—what is deployable—that counts, but I disagree with the suggestion that we do not have the sort of capability we need. When it came to providing additional air policing for the Baltic states, who was able to step up to the plate? It was Britain, because we have the relevant fighter aircraft and other aircraft. When it came to the conflict in Libya, who had the right capabilities for deploying the Typhoon, air-to-air refuelling and the other surveillance aircraft? I am not saying that everything is perfect, but by getting rid of mainland European battle tanks and bases in Germany and replacing them with deployable assets that can be used in modern conflict, I think that we have made some progress.
I certainly agree with what John Kerry has been saying to the Israelis about the importance of reducing civilian casualties, exercising restraint and bringing an end to the conflict.
Realistically, we have ruled out military action over the Ukraine crisis, but one possible military option in response to Putin’s continuing fermentation of conflict in eastern Ukraine would be for NATO to position ground forces in the Baltic republics or Poland. Is that a response that Her Majesty’s Government might consider and support in the North Atlantic Council of NATO?
What we have done, and what we will continue to do, is ensure that NATO acts together, for instance with the Baltic air policing task that British forces are carrying out. When the Russians see NATO troops in Latvia, Hungary or Poland—President Obama has said this, and I think that it is a sensible thing to say—it is important that they see the troops of the different NATO nationalities. I think that is absolutely right.
Benjamin Netanyahu said on TV over the weekend that the US, the UK and others supported Israeli action in Gaza. Given that the Prime Minister said in his statement today that the indiscriminate targeting of men, women and children is a war crime, why does he not condemn Israeli actions, rather than just making excuses for them, as he has done today?
I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. It is important that the first thing we do is condemn the indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas from Gaza into Israel, without provocation, that have brought this situation about.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appalling incident in Ukraine is the consequence of a war that has been raging for many months and that had already led to the loss of hundreds of lives? As well as now imposing the toughest possible sanctions on President Putin and Russia, if it is shown that they continue to support the separatists, will he consider what additional support he can give to President Poroshenko to restore the authority of the Ukrainian Administration throughout the whole of the country?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The most important thing we can do with regard to Ukraine is to help its economy recover and to make sure it has the assistance to restructure and be a successful, prosperous democracy. That is the best thing we can do. The association agreement signed between the EU and Ukraine is very important in that regard.
The Prime Minister has talked today about the importance of political will. He also said that he spoke to several
EU leaders over the weekend. In those conversations, did he talk to them about the situation in Gaza and what further pressure can be brought to bear to bring about a ceasefire to end this ceaseless violence?
Some journalists have recently criticised both the concept of soft power and its application by Britain. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the right type of sanctions would not be soft and their consequences would be strongly felt in Russia? Does he think that if there was not the necessary collective resolve in the EU, a coalition of the willing might be able to achieve something important?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Sanctions are not soft if they are well targeted—they can hit an economy quite hard. The danger of trying to find a coalition of the willing rather than working including through the institutions of the European Union is that some of these areas are governed by European Union procedures and we need to get the agreement of everyone in order to make these sanctions count.
Does the Prime Minister stand by his words of 2010 that the blockaded Gaza
“must not be allowed to remain a prison camp”?
Does he believe that the killing of 500 people and the displacing of 83,000 people is a proportionate response to the attacks he has mentioned? May I appeal to him to show courage and international leadership and to act as an honest broker to help bring an end to this conflict and humanitarian catastrophe?
The point the hon. Lady makes by reading out the remarks that I made is that I have a consistent record, yes, of defending Israel’s right to defend itself, but also of speaking out when I think that wrong things are being done. I am doing everything I can to help bring this conflict to an end. The most important thing, as I said, is for Hamas to accept the ceasefires that Israel has been prepared to accept.
My hon. Friend raises an important accusation that has been made by many. I do not have the expertise or information to be able to confirm exactly what Hamas’s tactics are, but certainly the accusation is made by many that it is indifferent to the loss of Palestinian life. I think that is demonstrated by its continuing to fire rockets even when ceasefires have been suggested or, indeed, implemented by the Israelis. That is the cruellest point of all. When the Israelis have adopted a ceasefire, why does not Hamas follow suit?
I agree with the Prime Minister about the need to stop the rockets from Gaza. However, does he not understand and, indeed, share the widespread revulsion at the apparent disregard for human life in the current military action in Gaza? Surely the Secretary-General of the United Nations is right that this action must now stop.
We all want the action to stop, and the best way for it to stop is for the rocket attacks to stop. For anyone watching this as a parent, you cannot help but feel huge, heartbreaking concern for the loss of life. But, as I just said, when there are ceasefires called by the Israelis, we have to ask ourselves, if Hamas cares about preventing civilian casualties, why does it not accept the ceasefire and act on it.
The Prime Minister is right to condemn Russia, but he was less than even-handed when it came to Israel. As he has ducked the questions asked by Mr Hain and the hon. Members for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) and for Preston (Mark Hendrick), will he now confirm that the disproportionate action of Israel’s political and military leaders constitutes war crimes and that, as with the downed aircraft, criminal sanctions should not be ruled out?
As I have said, I support Israel’s right to defend itself and that right has to be exercised in a proportionate way. That is what international law says.
Does the Prime Minister agree that he is in danger of following the pattern of his predecessor but one, who supported Israel for far too long? Speaking as a friend of Israel, may I say that the most candid thing we can say now is that the massive land invasion is disproportionate and causing loss of civilian life, and that it will in no way enhance the long-term security of Israel?
Although I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, I am left rather baffled. Three years ago, time was made available to discuss phone hacking and Mr Murdoch, and last summer Parliament was recalled to discuss an international crime. As far as I am concerned, an international crime has taken place on the continent of Europe, yet I am not in a position to be able to express my views on something to which I think we have responded rather timidly.
Obviously, Parliament is due to be suspended tomorrow, but if it is necessary for Parliament to be recalled to discuss this or any other issue, that facility is, of course, open to the leaders of the parties. Indeed, it has on occasion been exercised by Mr Speaker. I think it is good that we are having this statement today. I am trying to answer as many questions as fully as I can. Obviously, throughout the recess, the Government will be on the case of these issues and parliamentary colleagues will be able to contact us.
Everyone in this House condemns the rocket attacks, but the Israeli defence force is firing the most dangerous of weapons in the most dense of communities, and it is very clear that Secretary Kerry and Ban Ki-moon think that not enough is being done to minimise civilian casualties. Does the Prime Minister accept that analysis? What we really want to know in this House is what he will do today, tomorrow and through the week in the Security Council to stop the slaughter of the innocents in Gaza and beyond.
I could not have been clearer that I think there needs to be restraint and the avoidance of civilian casualties, and the Israelis need to find a way to bring this to an end. I have made all those points repeatedly.
May I welcome the Prime Minister’s strong words of leadership in yesterday’s article in The Sunday Times? Does he agree that strong and robust leadership, particularly from President Obama and the US, is needed now, more than ever, to demonstrate that Russia’s actions in Ukraine and around the world are completely unacceptable and will not, under any circumstances, be tolerated?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. To be fair, President Obama has been very clear that what has happened in Ukraine is unacceptable. He has been working hard to try to keep the United States and the European Union working together, because, obviously, if we can list the same people, take sanctions against the same banks, take sanctions against the same airlines and look at a third tier of sanctions in the same way at similar times, we will maximise the impact of what we do.
Parts of St James’s park have been turned into a shrine of flowers and footballing memorabilia as a mark of respect for my constituent Liam Sweeney and John Alder, who died following the team they loved. Does the Prime Minister agree that the contrast between that and the total lack of respect shown for the victims’ bodies and remains at the crash site itself is totally unacceptable? When does he think the bodies will be brought home, and what is he doing to support the victims’ families in the meantime?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right: this is a question of basic decent humanity. Anyone who saw on their television screens the thuggish separatists wandering around and fiddling with people’s personal belongings will agree that that was a deeply unpleasant thing to have to see. I cannot give the hon. Lady an answer about when the bodies will come home. Many of them are on the refrigerated train, and negotiations and discussions are underway right now about trying to get that to leave to go to a Ukrainian city. I will try to keep the House and the country updated.
On behalf of my Ukrainian community, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement on bringing an end to the violence in Ukraine. With regard to the crisis in Gaza and Israel, I join my constituents in deploring the loss of innocent lives. As my right hon. Friend said, we have all seen the horrific scenes of women and children being caught up in the cycle of violence. Will he continue to show leadership, with the United Nations, the US and others, in order to stop this senseless violence and to kick-start a meaningful peace process once again?
My hon. Friend is quite right. What is needed at the end of this is to get the peace process going again. This has been a massive setback for it, not least because it was preceded by talks of Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas launching these rocket attacks has not helped either that cause or the cause of a two-state solution.
I should like to associate myself and my colleagues with the Prime Minister’s condolences to those affected by the terrible tragedy of flight MH17, and with what he said about the need for early access to the site. On Gaza, when he is speaking to our European partners, will he press for a joint approach to allow the medical evacuation of serious injured Palestinians, given the terrible situation there?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his expressions of condolence. On getting people out of Gaza, we have helped a number of British citizens to get out, but I will look carefully at what he suggests about medical evacuations.
The Prime Minister will be aware that there are about a dozen flights a day from Britain to Russia or Ukraine, with thousands of people travelling every week on business, to study or as tourists. Given the volatile situation following this terrible crime, what advice are the Government giving to those who are thinking of travelling to either country at this time? Do they need to reconsider their plans?
The air routes are effectively set out and controlled by Eurocontrol. In terms of countries and destinations, people should look at the travel advice on the Foreign Office website, which is regularly updated. That will give advice specifically about eastern Ukraine.
I call Jim Dowd.
Order. The hon. Lady must have been renamed; or perhaps I was not clear enough. I called Jim Dowd.
I am not surprised that the Prime Minister has been called to be here for much longer than normal. He has tried to conflate two very important statements into one, but I am sure he knew that. Nobody with any sense would object to the UN Security Council’s call for an immediate ceasefire on the west bank, but I can tell from looking at a lot of the faces across the House today that there is a sense of déjà-vu here. This happens every few years because the underlying elements of the Israeli-Palestinian problem—the illegal settlements and the occupied territories—have not been addressed. Until they are addressed, we and our successors in the next Parliament will be coming back to discuss this in 2016, 2017 and 2018. That is a tragedy. On the shooting down of flight MH17—
Yes, Mr Speaker.
The Prime Minister said that flight MH17 was shot down by an SA-11 missile fired by separatists. What evidence does he have? Those systems can be used only by those of the most highly trained calibre, who would either have come from the Russian Government or been supported by the Russian Government. Does he have any information about that?
The reason that there are two statements put together is that one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues quite properly tabled an urgent question about Gaza, and I thought that it was important to show the House respect by answering both the questions. I said in my statement that it looked increasingly likely that an SA-11 had been fired by a separatist, because of where the missile came from and because of the information and intelligence that have been shared. In terms of who trained the person, who was responsible and who knew—that is information that I am sure the Russians could make available, and I would argue that it is their responsibility to do so.
Does the Prime Minister agree that, with regard to the situation in Gaza, the greatest strength is sometimes demonstrated by showing restraint? All that Israel’s actions are doing is creating the next generation of highly motivated Hamas terrorists. Is he minded to talk to his fellow European leaders about a form of sanction to encourage that restraint?
Everyone wants to encourage that restraint, and I agree with my hon. Friend and with Jim Dowd about the sense of déjà-vu and the cycle of violence that is created. However, we have to come back to how we can stop this current cycle. When we see that Israel has accepted a ceasefire, we need Hamas to accept it as well. Then we can stop the cycle before we go on to the more fundamental question of how we can bring about a two-state solution.
The PM rightly spoke of his anger at the deaths in Ukraine and the dangers of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries. Will he apply those maxims to Gaza? Will he stop blaming the Palestinians for the murder of their own children? Will he show consistent resolve and equal action to uphold international law in dealing with Tel Aviv as with Moscow?
As I have said on many occasions today, when it comes to condemning illegal settlements and to the importance of a two-state solution and when it comes to calling out on such issues on past occasions, I have always done so. I would do so again, and I have been very clear today.
With regard to flight MH17 being shot down, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right to work with the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to seek a UN resolution this evening. In the event that Russia vetoes the resolution to allow unfettered access to the crash and crime site, what further international actions will the UK seek to take not just with Europe, but with the wider international community?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, which is that the resolution will go to a vote at, I think, 8 pm UK time. We have drafted it in such a way as to try to prevent the Russians from having any sort of excuse of obfuscation or lack of clarity. We are not being particularly precious about who exactly leads the investigation. We are happy for it to be done by international experts with the backing of ICAO—the International Civil Aviation Organisation—which is an international body, so there is no excuse for a Russian veto. The whole world will be watching very closely, and if there is one, obviously there will be very bad consequences.
Israel has a right to security, with an end to rocket attacks by Hamas, but does the Prime Minister agree that while Israel uses overwhelming and disproportionate force with heartbreaking consequences in Gaza and continues to build settlements in the west bank, there will not be peace and security until such time as it recognises the right of the Palestinians to live in security as well and agrees to a two-state solution?
We want to see a two-state solution and there are many in Israel who accept a two-state solution, but at the moment the people who are preventing a two-state solution from even being on the table are Hamas, through their actions.
Order. Somebody asked how long the statement would run, but I would just point out, if I may, that there is intense interest in it and that the frequency of the Prime Minister’s tennis playing on the one hand and his jogging regime on the other means that he is quite fit enough, I am sure.
On the murder of the passengers of MH17, may I commend my right hon. Friend on his swift action and the clarity with which he has stated his Government’s position to the British people? Has he seen the Bloomberg report today that the Russian business community—the billionaires around the Russian Government—is beginning to worry that the Russian Government’s actions will push the Russian economy into recession, and will he take that report with him when he negotiates with the Italians, the French and the Germans to push them for team action? I think this could really change the hearts of the Russian Government?
I have not seen that report, but I will study it. My hon. Friend makes a good point, which is that those who argue that sanctions do not and cannot work fail to understand that if sanctions have an impact on Russia’s economy and the finances of the people around the Russian Government, they can have an impact.
I am sorry about the identity crisis. I call Lyn Brown.
A reported 12,000-plus rockets have been fired into Gaza over the past 13 days, with more than 500 deaths and more than 80,000 Gazans displaced. May I simply ask the Prime Minister what pressure he is prepared to apply, if he will not pursue economic sanctions against Israel, to ensure that Israel complies with international humanitarian law and exercises the restraint that he says he wants to see?
The pressure we bring to bear, as a friend of Israel’s, is to be very clear in our interactions with them about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The hon. Lady has got to consider—the figure she cites is actually now out of date; 1,850 rockets have been fired into Israel—that if we want a ceasefire, we have to ask ourselves this question: why has Hamas not accepted a ceasefire, when Israel repeatedly has?
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on leading the world’s response to these terrible murders? During the Easter recess, my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood and I visited Ukraine as part of a cross-party delegation. We spent part of the visit in the town of Odessa. It was made very clear to us that the Russian media, which are controlled by Putin, are putting across an image of the people in eastern Ukraine being under attack from the people in Kiev. I urge the Prime Minister to say to the French Government that it only adds to Putin’s strength if he can say to the people that people in Europe are willing to deal with him, especially over the supply of new warships.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is important that people in Russia hear about what is happening in their name. One Russian newspaper has reported—I think this is a quote—that it seems likely that it was a separatist missile that was fired at the plane. It is very important that we get that information through. What he says about working together in Europe is absolutely right.
The Prime Minister rightly says that big countries should not bully smaller countries, and he rightly expresses concern about the 500 Palestinian dead and 3,000 injured. However, he stops short of accepting what I believe is the opinion of the majority of people in this place and in the country, which is that the Israeli response is not proportionate. What more can he do to express to Israel that that is the view in the UK?
I am sure that the Israelis will be watching the debates in this House and international opinion carefully. One point that I made to Prime Minister Netanyahu was that international opinion supports Israel’s right to defend itself, but that it is in danger of losing the support of international opinion if anything happens that shows a lack of restraint and a lack of care about civilian casualties. At the same time, the message should go out from this House that there have been ceasefires called by the Israelis and not matched by Hamas. We must not wish that away or ignore it, because it is a crucial point.
I am sure that at the forthcoming meeting of European Union Foreign Ministers, the return of the bodies to their families will be the top priority, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the potential deployment of UN peacekeepers to Ukraine should also be discussed and should not be ruled out altogether?
I will listen carefully to what my hon. Friend has said. The difficulty is that we are making the argument that the territorial integrity of Ukraine should be respected. That is why the people who should be securing the crash site and making it available for investigation should be the Ukrainian Government—it is their country. To bring in UN forces in some way would be to accept that there is a legitimate case to be made for the separatists who are trying to break up the country through violence.
The Prime Minister is right to condemn utterly the downing of MH17 and the way in which the bodies have been dealt with. Does he understand why those who recall that the west supplied and encouraged the protesters of Maidan and held out to them the probably false prospect of the EU welcoming them into its bosom, and who saw the support that the west provided for the overthrow of Ukraine’s former President as a clear provocation of Russia, find it ironic that the Prime Minister now accuses Russia of being the party that initiated and fomented the tragic division in Ukraine?
I respect the hon. Gentleman, but I really do not agree with that. The former President of Ukraine wanted to sign an association agreement with the EU. I believe that if a sovereign country in Europe wants to sign an association agreement with the EU, it should be free to do so and Russia should respect it. I have always said that Ukraine does not have to choose between a European future and a Russian future; it should seek to be a bridge between the two. Europe is prepared to let that happen, but apparently Vladimir Putin is not.
I thank the Prime Minister for his comments about Hamas. Israel has faced not just 1,850 missiles, but 11,000 missiles fired from Gaza, even after the unilateral withdrawal and millions of tonnes of aid going from Israel into Gaza every year. Will my right hon. Friend also look at the source of the missiles, because Iran is supplying Hamas with the weapons?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point, which is that we must look at where the missiles came from. There is information to suggest that what he puts forward is the case. If we are to de-escalate the conflict, we need to look at the source of the weapons, as well as at the people who are firing them.
The Prime Minister has been clear today about his views on Hamas’s conduct, but I would like to give him the opportunity to be clear with the House about his views on Israel’s conduct. Given what we have seen over the weekend, does he believe Israel is acting in accordance with international law, the Geneva conventions —including on access for the Red Cross—and humanitarian principles? It is a clear yes or no.
I think it is very important that it does those things, which is why I said that it should exercise restraint, avoid civilian casualties and look at ways of bringing the conflict to an end.
Although President Poroshenko has announced a 40-km cordon around the MH17 crash site, reports from Donetsk over the weekend suggest that the fighting, far from diminishing, has increased. Does my right hon. Friend believe that Putin and his puppets have any real sense of the enormity of what has been done, the anger of the international community and the response that we expect to that anger? I have to say, the fighting on the ground suggests that they do not.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I cannot exactly tell him that I feel the enormity of what has happened has got through to the Russians yet, not least because of the way their media operate, but the repeated calls by Prime Minister Abbott, Prime Minister Rutte, Chancellor Merkel, François Hollande, Barack Obama and myself must be giving some impression that the whole world is coming together in saying that what is happening in eastern Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable.
The Prime Minister will be aware that nothing happens in isolation. One of the reasons for what is happening is that in Gaza, in the past 60 years more than 6 million Palestinians have been forced out of their homes, forced to live in squalor while moving from one country to another, unlawfully imprisoned and treated really badly. All those people have legal documents to prove their ownership of their homes, yet we have done nothing. I am sure that if all those people were given back the homes to which they are legally entitled, the ceasefire would occur immediately.
I do not accept that we have done nothing. Britain is one of the largest donors to the Palestinian Authority, and we repeatedly meet and work with the Palestinian leadership. We have been staunch in our view that the settlement activity is illegal, and we have done a huge amount to try to bring about a two-state solution. But in the end, we cannot want it to happen more than the parties themselves want it to happen. They need to negotiate.
I hope that even now it will respond to the Egyptian plan for a ceasefire and discussions. It is on the table, the Israelis have accepted it and the international community accepts it; we just need Hamas to accept it.
Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me because they are angry and sickened by the killing of innocent Palestinians and the injuries to many thousands more in Gaza over recent days. They find it hard to understand the Prime Minister’s view that that violence is proportionate, so will he explain how he has reached that conclusion?
What I have said clearly is that the Israelis need to exercise restraint, obey the norms of international law, do more to avoid civilian casualties and help bring the situation to an end, but they would be assisted in that if Hamas agreed to the ceasefire that Israel has agreed to.
The Prime Minister is right to identify that Russia’s behaviour has been so gross that it cannot expect the access to international markets that a normal, civilised country might. Does he agree that the logical next political step might be to consider the appropriateness of Russia continuing as a member of the Council of Europe, which is supposedly a body of civilised democracies?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We demonstrated with the G8 that if countries want to belong to organisations that have at their heart a belief in democracy and the fundamental values that we share, they have to act accordingly.
I thank the Prime Minister for making a statement this afternoon on two such terrible disasters—tragedies that are of deep concern to my constituents. On Friday, 10 mosque leaders in my constituency came to me to ask me to ask the Prime Minister to use his good offices and his influence with Israel to ask it to de-escalate this terrible conflict, and to use his good offices and his influence with the United States to ask it to use its authority to persuade Israel to do likewise.
Many of my constituents view today’s appalling humanitarian tragedy in the context not only of the rocket attacks but in the context of Israel’s full range of actions over many years, and they draw some of the most appalling conclusions—conclusions that I am reluctant to accept. Will my right hon. Friend do more to persuade Israel that in the long term it must find a hopeful way forward for the people of Palestine?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that we should confront views that are not sound when we receive them—as perhaps he has—but we should try and lay out a vision, not least for the people of Israel, about why it is in their interest to have a two-state solution. That is what my speech in the Knesset was all about: there is a strong and positive case for everyone concerned if they can make the difficult decisions necessary to bring that about.
While I welcome the UN Security Council’s call last night for a ceasefire, will the Prime Minister take on board the representations I have received, including e-mails from my constituents this morning, urging him—pleading with him—to urge the Israelis to stop using flechette shells in Gaza, which lead to lethal metal darts and innocent people being killed or maimed? Does he agree that the Egyptians calling for dialogue is not enough?
The point I would make about the Egyptians calling for dialogue is that at least there is a process in place for a ceasefire and talks, which the Israelis and the international community are accepting and calling for. We now need Hamas to do that as well. On the issue of weapons, as I said earlier, I have not seen that evidence and I will look into it.
I think it is likely. It may not go as far as I would like, but I think that when we are dealing with an organisation of 28 members, some of whom are heavily reliant on Russia for gas or financial services or whatever, it is always difficult. However, I think what we have seen is outrageous, and in the end this depends on what Russia’s actions are. Russia can relieve the sanctions pressure by making sure there is access to that site and that it stops supporting the Ukrainian rebels. If it does those things, there will not be the sanctions pressure, but if it does not, there will be.
I unequivocally condemn the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas, but the Prime Minister has to accept that the response from Israel is disproportionate. The disregard for the safety of innocent civilians, whether they are in Israel or Gaza or in an aeroplane over Ukraine, is unacceptable, and international law must be applied. On Ukraine, is the Prime Minister satisfied that western banks applied the proper criteria when money was being hollowed out of the finances within Ukraine and smuggled out of that country and into bank accounts in the west? It has led to the situation in Ukraine today. Will he ensure at tomorrow’s meeting of Foreign Ministers that an investigation is instigated into that?
I will certainly look at the point the hon. Gentleman makes with regard to Ukrainian banks and the money that has been taken out, and I will mention it to my colleague the Foreign Secretary who will be attending that meeting.
The Prime Minister will know that Russia repeatedly vetoed any early intervention in Syria, which has led to a complete mess in Syria. Will he now review our policy on Syria despite Russian objections, taking into account the words of Robert Ford, the former US envoy to Syria, who says that current international policy does not relate to the position on the ground? Finally, there are reports that Hamas is prepared to accept a ceasefire if it is guaranteed by Qatar and Turkey. Is there any progress on that?
I have not seen that latest report, but anything that brings about a ceasefire would of course be welcome. On Syria, our policy remains the same.
Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me expressing their horror at what is happening in Gaza, and I share that horror. This is—yet again—a disproportionate response from Israel. Does the Prime Minister agree that the collective punishment of the Palestinians, which has seen many hundreds die, including many dozens of children, is disproportionate and a war crime? People watching this debate today will see that his response has been wholly inadequate.
Our response has been very clear to the Israelis: they have to obey the norms of international law, act proportionately, exercise restraint and avoid civilian casualties.
I am sure that everyone in the House wants an end to rocket attacks, but on Friday I met literally hundreds of my constituents—people from mosques, churches, and people of no religion at all—who had taken to the streets of Worcester because of their deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. May I urge the Prime Minister, on their behalf and mine, to use every diplomatic tool in the box to impress on both sides in this conflict the need to bring about a ceasefire, come to the table and work towards a long-term peace?
That is absolutely what we are doing. In particular, we are pushing this Egyptian ceasefire plan, to which others are prepared to sign up. We need Hamas to sign up to it, too. When we get to the talks process, we need to press Hamas to accept the Quartet principles, which include Israel’s right to exist. It is difficult to negotiate with an organisation that does not accept that the country with which we are negotiating has any right to exist.
Russia is reliant on the manufacturing base in eastern Ukraine. It relies on 30% of Ukraine’s manufacturing output for unique and irreplaceable military components for the arsenal of the Russian military. Does the Prime Minister accept that it is about time that we put an end to this false belief that Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine and in Crimea were anything to do with the support of Russian-speaking minorities and everything to do with supporting the Russian military base?
I hear what the hon. Lady says and I am sure that she is right. It is partly about that, but it is also about Russia’s vision of itself and its neighbours and about it feeling that connection with Ukraine. What we should be saying is that of course we will protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities in eastern Ukraine, but the people of Ukraine have made a choice in terms of a free and democratic election and a free choice to have an association agreement with the European Union, and Russia should respect that.
Now that the Israeli ground offensive has moved into densely populated urban areas of Gaza, the death toll of innocent Palestinians, especially of children, will only rise. The Israelis say that civilians should leave these areas. Given the Prime Minister’s own description of Gaza as an open-air prison camp, perhaps he could advise the men, women and children of Gaza as to where on Earth they are supposed to go?
What we want for the people of Gaza is for them to have a country of their own—Palestine —that lives in peace next to Israel. That is the goal.
How should President Putin respond to the concerns about the crash site that have been expressed by the Australian Prime Minister, who said that it is a bit like leaving criminals in charge of the crime scene? How will the strength of public opinion and economic weight in Australia and south-east Asia be used to put further pressure on President Putin?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is that this is a tragedy that has affected many Australian families, and it demonstrates the fact that we need the whole world to come together to send the clearest possible message to Russia about its behaviour. Having spoken three times over recent days to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I know that he will be very strong in delivering that message.
Does the Prime Minister accept that the balance of opinion in the House today is that, with more than 500 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of whom were civilian and many of whom were children, and 20 Israelis also killed during this conflict, this could never be described as proportionate? What action will he take as a result of that balance of opinion? I urge him to get behind the United Nations in its peacekeeping role rather than continue to make waves about the Egyptian role. The United Nations is where it should be at, and if he empowers the Secretary-General, hopefully we can get a solution.
I am fully behind the United Nations and think that it does have a leading role to play. What the Secretary-General said about the need for a ceasefire was very welcome. The point about the
Egyptian proposal is that it is on the table; the Israelis have accepted it. If Hamas accepted it, we would have a ceasefire. As for the debate today, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: it is important that Israel bears in mind the fact that there is very strong public opinion here and around the world about the need for restraint and the need to avoid civilian casualties. I am sure that it will listen carefully to what hon. Members say today.
Does the Prime Minister accept that one major impediment to a lasting ceasefire in Gaza is the widely held belief across the Palestinian occupied territories, the wider middle east and our own constituencies that Israel has not lived up to its previous commitments under previous ceasefires? Furthermore, does he accept that the normal test he would apply on the deliberate targeting of civilians starts to break down in an area as densely populated as Gaza?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that in densely populated areas it is incredibly important that Israeli forces accept the norms of international law. In terms of assurances given, for a negotiation to succeed everyone has to stick to the undertakings they have given. For instance, we need the Israelis to have a Palestinian partner with whom they can negotiate. That means that, over time, Hamas has to accept Israel’s right to exist and give up the use of violence.
There is a saying that if the truth is stretched thin enough, people start to see through it. In relation to Israel’s response being proportionate, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can seriously tell the House that, had he been in power at the time of republican bombings in the United Kingdom, he would have sanctioned the use of carpet bombing, close range artillery and naval bombardment in parts of Belfast and Kilburn?
I do not think the comparison is a fair and honest one. Weapons are being launched from a neighbouring country into Israel. The Israeli Government have a duty to protect their people and stop those missiles being launched. Internal terrorism is an entirely different situation.
I offer my condolences to families and friends who lost loved ones on MH17. I agree that we need to have strong EU leadership with a single voice and to send a clear message to Russia.
On Gaza, I am absolutely stunned by the Prime Minister’s change in tone. Will he unreservedly condemn the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the Palestinian people, particularly civilian women and children, and the breaches of international law and the Geneva convention?
I believe I have been thoroughly consistent over many years on this issue. It is very important that Israel obeys norms of international law.
It is right to condemn it, for instance, over illegal settlement activity, and I do. It is right to push everyone towards a peace process. It is right to accept that Israel has a right to self defence, but it is right to be very clear that that means restraint, proportionality and avoiding civilian casualties. I could not have been clearer.
President Obama was absolutely right to say that the vile crime committed on Thursday in Ukraine represents a wake-up call for Europe, but the scale of sanctions from the EU on Russia has lagged far behind those applied by the United States. Will the Government make the case tomorrow to broaden sanctions to include, for example, the Russian company that manufactures the surface-to-air missile system that may well have brought down flight MH17?
I will look very carefully at the specific suggestion the hon. Gentleman makes. I think he is being a little unfair in that the US and the EU have worked quite well in partnership to try to deliver strong and consistent sanctions packages, and long may that continue.
I thought my new suit would catch your eye, Mr Speaker, but it did not. [Hon. Members: “It did.”] Maybe it did.
The slaughter of 298 innocents on flight MH17 was a direct result of the deployment of the most lethal arms at the top of the technology tree, which has been part of an escalation from violent skirmishes in Ukraine towards all-out civil war with a possible pretext of Russia entering Ukraine. Does the Prime Minister agree that the only people Putin will listen to, in translating him from a warmonger to a peacemaker, are the people of Russia themselves? Does he further agree that sanctions need to be far reaching and hard hitting? With that in mind, will he argue tomorrow for new sanctions by the end of this month?
I agree with almost every word the hon. Gentleman said; he put the point extremely well and made clear what needs to happen. On the timing of sanctions, some of these things can be done quite quickly. If we can nominate and agree new people—for instance, I have been arguing that we should start to sanction cronies and oligarchs connected to the regime, even if they do not have a particular connection to Ukraine and Crimea—those names can be written down and those targets dealt with relatively quickly.
That was a good note on which to end. In spite of the suit, it was a very good point.