Middle East Peace Settlement — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:32 pm on 14th January 2014.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 8:32 pm, 14th January 2014

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Soley. It is obviously true that the EU’s efforts have been a significant element in the involvement that has been conducted jointly with others, not least the quartet, and with the United States—whose role, as we have just heard, is still vital. Most importantly, all those groups are committed to a two-state solution, as are we. There has been a massive, unsung effort in development and co-operation provided by the EU over many years—in particular in the programmes of the past five years, many of which were directed at young people, with many important initiatives in the universities. I have emphasised that it is essential to engage the next generation positively, and the EU has tried to do so. It is this generation that, as my noble friend Lord Mendelsohn said a few moments ago, will have the work to do.

The EU’s work on the economy of Palestine, with direct financial support, and efforts to improve the role of law, trade and water infrastructure, represents what can be done only at scale—hence the importance of the EU’s role. The disaster programme is of huge importance, and I strongly endorse and was very pleased to hear mentioned the funds referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Leigh, and his endorsement of Sir Ronnie Cohen’s work with the Portland Trust. Of course, much of the work has not succeeded.

I have set myself, in these few moments, a very simple question—the same question, essentially, that was asked by the noble Lords, Lord Kerr, Lord Jay, Lord Hannay, and my noble friend Lord Giddens, last Friday. The EU’s contribution to peace is fundamental, is it not? That was said again today by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson. The House has rightly spoken with pride of the efforts of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in respect of Iran, and all the wider implications for the region. Could she have had the same impact if she had spoken simply for the United Kingdom? It is inconceivable.

The EU is a huge political block, comprising major world players acting as one. It is a huge economic entity of 500 million people, where the economic prospects for a peaceful Middle East may well be realised in the arrangements that will subsequently be made. The EU has a responsibility to help, but it also has a responsibility to criticise—to criticise illegal settlements, and also to criticise rocket attacks. Those are all parts of our political responsibility. The

Cathy Ashton story is a story about the huge leverage for good created by the European Union. Her success is testimony to its success, and I believe that it is likely to be of deep significance when we reach 22 January.