My Lords, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Soley, on securing this debate, and associate myself with the very positive comments he made about the role of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I would also like to associate myself with the words of the noble Lords, Lord Leigh and Lord Carrington, in relation to the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Like many others, I am very encouraged by the discreet and effective initiative led by Secretary of State Kerry and the progress that has been made towards final status. That has clearly changed the dynamic and created both the political space and the political will for progress to be made. I think that there is a role for Europe in not just supporting this progress but starting to work on looking at how to underpin it.
If this current attempt to reach agreement is to work, three external conditions need to hold. First, regional relationships need to be encouraged that provide confidence to the Palestinians and that support Israel’s security. That means work to deepen ties between Israel and its neighbours. Secondly, the region will need to be ready to open trading relationships with the Palestinian economy and to support development and a shift away from aid dependency. Thirdly, during the peace talks, the parties need to be left to find a solution themselves, with the international community helping to limit distractions and being prepared to support the longer-term relationship necessary between both parties and their neighbours.
In support of the latter point, there are clearly certain things that Europe should not do. Most importantly, it should not undermine the current talks by adopting positions that alter the balance of advantage during negotiations. On the positive side, there is an obvious role for the EU and its member states. In this regard, the comments made by the Foreign Secretary last week—regarding the EU’s package of security, political and economic support that would be ready to support a final status agreement—are very welcome indeed.
Any agreement will not make peace overnight. The hard job of establishing peace will take a generation and strong engagement. It is a long commitment to hard and difficult work, and it is what we in Europe can do better than others.