Situation in the Gulf

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 5:06 pm, 22nd July 2019

We have a plethora of distinguished former FCO Ministers on the Back Benches today. I am just grateful that the Work and Pensions Secretary and the Defence Secretary are on the Front Bench, otherwise I might be a bit lonely.

My right hon. Friend speaks with a lot of wisdom and experience of relations with Iran. One of the issues that he navigated extremely successfully during his time in the FCO was the fact that we feel like we are talking to two different groups of people: the Government of Iran and the Foreign Minister, who are usually quite reasonable when we talk to them; and then the people we never get to talk to, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are always kept at a distance.

It is tempting to say that there is no point talking to the Foreign Ministry in Iran because it does not have any influence over the Government. But that is also wrong, because it has access that we do not have and it can present a more moderate case. That is why we continue with these contacts. The best hope that we have is the fact that Foreign Minister Zarif proposed a basis on which to restart negotiations with the United States for a different version of the nuclear deal. That was rejected by the United States, but I think that the fact that that language has started to emerge in the last couple of weeks is a sign that there is some hope of a negotiated end.