Middle East Peace, Security and Development and UNRWA

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:17 pm on 15th June 2022.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 4:17 pm, 15th June 2022

As I said, the international development strategy talks clearly about our key priorities. One priority is women and girls, within which is girls’ education, which is key to driving development and change. There is also access to women’s healthcare, which is a key part of the women and girls strategy. I spend a lot of my time travelling around different countries and looking at some of the amazing work we have done to support access to women’s healthcare and humanitarian aid.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. Alongside our support of UNRWA and our bilateral programmes, the UK provided £2 million to UNICEF in 2021 to help feed and clothe vulnerable people and ensure that children can continue their education, keeping the hope of a better life alive.

We continue to stress to the Israeli authorities that restrictions on movement, access and trade for the people of Gaza are damaging the lives of ordinary Palestinians. As I will say again and again, we urge all parties to drive for a durable solution for Gaza and take the necessary practical steps to ensure Gaza’s reconstruction and economic recovery. We welcome the continued engagement between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority on economic matters, but urge more rapid progress.

Improving the economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remains a priority for the UK, so in addition to our support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UK Government have funded a number of development programmes in the occupied territories that work to preserve the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution, as the hon. Member for Rotherham pointed out, and to improve the lives of Palestinians throughout the west bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. A key part of this work is building the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to provide essential services, and the basis for a future Palestinian state.

We continue to work with the Palestinian Authority to reform its security sector, and strengthen its financial management, including revenue collection and enhancing transparency and accountability. Through our programmes, we are improving electricity and water infrastructure across the west bank and Gaza, and helping to improve conditions for trade and exports; there is a wide variety of issues.

My hon. Friend Robert Largan mentioned the issue of educational textbooks. We urge the Palestinian Authority to remove problematic content from its textbooks. We have robust conversations with the highest levels of the Palestinian leadership, challenging them on the need to prepare their population for peace, including by promoting a positive portrayal of others. We have zero tolerance for all forms of incitement to violence or antisemitism. It is worth pointing out that the UK does not fund textbooks in the OPTs.

The situation on the ground demonstrates the need to accelerate progress towards peace, which is one of the reasons that the conference has been called next week. We remain committed to the two-state solution as the best way to bring peace and stability to the region. We support a negotiated settlement, leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both sides, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.

We firmly believe in a just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. It is long overdue. We will continue to press both parties on the need to refrain from taking actions that make peace more difficult to attain. We call on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law and to promote peace, stability and security.

We are deeply concerned about the fragile security situation in the west bank and Jerusalem, and look to all parties to take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions.