Middle East Road Map

– in the House of Lords at 2:56 pm on 20th July 2005.

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Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 2:56 pm, 20th July 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have departed from the declared policy under the road map of halting the expansion of Maale Adumim and other settlements close to Jerusalem.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, we have by no means departed from our policy in support of the road map, including the need for Israel to freeze all settlement expansion and dismantle outposts. We have consistently made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity. We have also made clear that, while we support disengagement as an important first step, that does not alter the need for Israel to meet its road map commitments. We will continue to call on Israel to meet those commitments.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his statement of policy as far as it goes. I think he would agree that the expansion of Maale Adumim is cutting the West Bank into two parts and is completely undermining the concept of a viable, sustainable Palestine. Does he accept that the policy in Washington now is that that expansion is the price of disengagement from Gaza and no less? Therefore, is that not why the Government of Israel and the Government of the United States are ignoring our protests and those of the quartet?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I agree with the basic sentiment that expansion should stop. Continuing Israeli settlement activity does risk cutting the West Bank in two, with particular and major difficulties around east Jerusalem. We support disengagement as an important first step in the removal of the settlements from the occupied territory but, as I have said, that does not reduce in any way the requirement on Israel and the Israeli Government to meet their other commitments under phase one of the road map. It is of course the case that, were this to continue, a contiguous state would be close to impossible. The role of the United States in the peace process and the road-map process remains critical. During our EU presidency we will be working closely with them to ensure that they remain aligned with the objectives to which they have committed themselves as recently as the G8 conference.

Photo of Lord Turnberg Lord Turnberg Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while Israel is engaged in an extremely painful process of withdrawal from Gaza and large swathes of the West Bank, it deserves support and encouragement from the Government for what it is doing rather than criticism for what it is not yet doing? In any event, criticism is unlikely to be helpful to those Palestinians and Israelis who are engaged in trying to reach a viable solution.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, we are attempting as far as we are able to encourage all parties in the co-operation that has begun. It is a tender flower by any judgment. At the G8 conference, we got the commitment of the G8 nations to a £3 billion per annum investment in the development of Gaza. There are obligations on both sides. On the Palestinian side, road map commitments were entered into in relation to the Cairo declaration, the Sharm al-Sheikh summit on 8 February and the London meeting on 1 March. All parties have an equal obligation to try to ensure that the encouragement that they have had and the resources that they will now get make a fundamental difference.

Photo of Lord Steinberg Lord Steinberg Conservative

My Lords, does the Minister agree that Mr Sharon and the Israeli Government should be congratulated on their determination and tenacity in the withdrawal from Gaza and certain territories? I say this more in sorrow than in anger, but continued Palestinian terrorism prevents substantive talks on the road map. Does the Minister agree that there should be an absolute end to terrorism?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, of course there should be an absolute end to terrorism. I cannot believe that a single Member of your Lordships' House would take a different view. A recurrence of violence in the region is no help in securing that outcome. Our position is straightforward. The withdrawal from Gaza is an absolutely invaluable step in the process, but it must not and cannot be the only step; we must encourage others to carry on and go forward. I am encouraged by the extent to which the leaders of the two communities are now co-operating in difficult circumstances to achieve that goal.

Photo of Lord Steel of Aikwood Lord Steel of Aikwood Liberal Democrat

My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government make use of our presidency of the EU to make clear that our long-term generous trade agreements with Israel depend on continued steady progress on the road map towards a two-state solution; and that by two states we mean two equal sovereign states, not one with a semi-autonomous neighbour divided into Bantustans by settlements and the misrouting of the security wall?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I hope that I have made clear to the House the Government's position on the settlements and the consequences around east Jerusalem. At present, there is no good argument for using our presidency to threaten rather than assist. Real progress is being made at the moment. It is very difficult. If anyone in this House had the magic bullet, I have no doubt that they would have described it to your Lordships already. We are nurturing an extremely difficult moment, and that is best done with the money as well as the encouragement. We will use the presidency fully to ensure that that happens.

Photo of Lord Wright of Richmond Lord Wright of Richmond Crossbench

My Lords, I again pay tribute to the political courage of Prime Minister Sharon in trying to achieve the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza. Nevertheless, does the Minister agree that the current difficulties of ensuring that withdrawal mean that the prospects of a substantial withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank—not freezing their number but withdrawing them—which will be required if there is to be a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, now seem very remote? Does not the Minister agree that the best prospect for winning the so-called war on terror would be a really concentrated, balanced attempt by the quartet, including Her Majesty's Government, to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wright. The aim must be to ensure that the whole road-map process is driven forward. It is fundamental to the road map that a contiguous and viable state exists for the Palestinian people. We should use our efforts to try to secure that.

However, as a stepping stone in the process, I ask the House to understand that at present steps that have not been seen for a long time are being made on the parts of the leaders of both communities. It is our hope that that will build a greater level of confidence for the steps that will then still be needed. That is why every encouragement is required at the moment for the steps to which people are committed. I hope that, by the time we come back after the Summer Recess, we will have seen a successful achievement of the first parts of that, and that it leads to a further engagement with the road map as a whole.