Oman, Uae and Iran

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 11th December 2017.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 5:30 pm, 11th December 2017

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for the spirit in which she poses her questions. I can tell her that in Tehran I met Vice-President Salehi, the head of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, the Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and had long discussions with President Rouhani. In each of those conversations, I repeated the case for release on humanitarian grounds, where that is appropriate, of the difficult consular cases that we have in Iran, and that message was certainly received and understood. However, as I said to the House, it is too early to be confident about the outcome.

The right hon. Lady asked about the plan in Yemen, and she will understand that the plan certainly was until last Saturday that Ali Abdullah Saleh would be divided from the Houthis, which seemed to be the best avenue for progress. Indeed, Ali Abdullah Saleh was divided from the Houthis, but he then paid the ultimate price for his decision to go over to the coalition. We are left with a difficult and tense situation, and what we need to do now, the plan on which everybody is agreed, is to get Hodeidah open, first to humanitarian relief, to which the Saudis have agreed, but also to commercial traffic, too.

I heard the right hon. Lady’s question about the use of the UN Security Council. Resolution 2216 is still operative, but as penholders in the UN we keep the option of a new Security Council resolution under continuous review. It is vital that all parties understand, as I think they genuinely do in Riyadh, in Abu Dhabi and across the region, that there is no military solution to the disaster in Yemen. There is no way that any side can win this war. What we need now is a new constitution and a new political process, and that is the plan that the UK is in the lead in promoting. As I said to the right hon. Lady, we had meetings of the Quad last week, again last night in Abu Dhabi, and we will have a further meeting in early January.

As for the UK’s role in Syria, the right hon. Lady asked about the Astana process and whether it would be acceptable. Our view is that if there is to be a lasting peace in Syria that commands the support of all the people of that country, it is vital that we get the talks back to Geneva. I believe that that is the Labour party’s position. Indeed, I believe it was also the Labour party’s position that there could be no long-term future for Syria with President Assad. If that position has changed, I would be interested to hear about that. However, our view is that it is obviously a matter for the people of Syria, and we will be promoting a plan whereby they, including the 11 million or 12 million who have fled the country, will be given the chance to vote in free, fair, UN-observed elections to give that country a stable future.