Middle East

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 5th April 2005.

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Photo of Mr Parmjit Gill Mr Parmjit Gill Liberal Democrat, Leicester South

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the political impact on (a) Jordan, (b) Syria, (c) Israel, (d) Palestine and (e) Iran of the recent conflict in Iraq.

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We closely monitor the political situation in the Middle East. The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime removed the threat he posed to Iraq's neighbours.

For Syria, the conflict gave rise to the movement of numbers of Iraqis across Syria's borders. There is evidence that some Syrian extremists have travelled to Iraq to take part in the insurgency. Syria appears to be the principal route for insurgents entering Iraq and continues to support former Iraqi regime elements who are based in Syria. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about these issues with the Syrian Government, and will continue to do so.

For Iran, the removal of Saddam's Government has created an opportunity to re-establish Iran/Iraq relations on a more positive footing. A stable and prosperous Iraq is in the best interests of Iran as well as the wider region. We have encouraged Iran to play a constructive role and to support Iraqi efforts to preserve security. We have made clear our concern at the alleged links between elements of the Iranian regime and armed groups in Iraq who have sought to undermine the rule of law.

For Jordan, the conflict gave rise to the movement of numbers of Iraqis across Jordan's borders. Since the conflict ended, Jordan has provided political support and practical assistance to Iraq.

The conflict has had less direct effect on Israel and Palestine, although a source of funds for some Palestinian groups has dried up with the removal of Saddam Hussein. In recent months the Israeli and Palestinian focus has been directed internally towards the Palestinian elections and disengagement.

Successful elections were held in Iraq on 30 January. The formation of a democratically elected Iraqi Government should have a further positive impact on stability in the region.

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