Hezbollah

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th March 2017.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 12:00 am, 28th March 2017

What recent reports he has received on the expansion of Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We are aware of reports that Hezbollah continues to amass an arsenal of weapons, which is in direct contravention of UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701. In addition to Hezbollah’s interference in Syria, there is also a risk of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah returning. If what happened in 2006 were repeated, it would not just devastate Lebanon but be hugely destabilising for the region.

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

I thank the Minister for his response. Earlier this month, Iran’s Defence Minister said that Hezbollah is now capable of producing rockets that can hit any part of Israel, and reports have emerged that Iran has established rocket factories under the control of Hezbollah. What steps is he taking to stop Iran’s unconstrained financing of terror?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The involvement of Iran through proxy influences across the region is of huge concern, not least in Lebanon, and we are looking at these reports very carefully indeed. I should also say that Hezbollah, which has a political involvement as part of the Government in Lebanon, needs to move forward and be more constructive. It is thanks to disruption by Hezbollah and its blocking decisions in the Lebanese Government that the country was without a president for two years.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee

But what urgent action can be taken to counter Iran’s malevolent involvement in destabilising the middle east? We have already heard reference to Hezbollah being armed by Iran, but Iran is also arming Hamas in Gaza with rockets aimed specifically at Israeli communities within Israel, across the border from Gaza. What action will be taken to stop this?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We are now engaging with Iran at a level that we have not done for over a decade, thanks to the nuclear agreement that has been made. That allows us to have more forthright and frank conversations, and we have made it very clear that if Iran wants to join the international community—we want stability in the middle east—it must desist from having an influence in the areas to which the hon. Lady referred.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Conservative, Canterbury

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s earlier answer, but does he accept that Israel’s decision in 2006 to bomb all parts of Lebanon, including those represented by people who had been fighting Hezbollah for more than a generation, catapulted Hezbollah from a sectional group of extremists right into the heart of the powerbase of the Government of Lebanon?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I visited the country right after those attacks had taken place and the devastation was indeed huge. It is in all our interests not to go down that road again. I pay tribute to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, which has done an amazing job in reducing tensions between the two countries.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

One way to reduce the supply of weapons to Hezbollah is to stop them at source. What discussions has the Minister had with, for instance, Egypt on the tunnels and the access they provide for bringing weapons in? If they can be stopped there, we can stop them being used.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we need to work together on this with our partners across the middle east. We are engaging not just with Egypt, but with other countries too.