TUESDAY 8 APRIL 2014
Oral Questions to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of progress in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
William Hague: In the past few days, I have discussed progress with Secretary Kerry and President Abbas, and I will speak to my Israeli counterparts in the coming days. Secretary Kerry’s tireless efforts provide an unparalleled opportunity to achieve a two-state solution. I urge both parties to show the bold leadership needed to resolve this conflict once and for all.
Ann McKechin: The Foreign Secretary will be aware of press stories that the latest report by the European heads of mission in East Jerusalem states that Israeli policies in Jerusalem are aimed at “cementing its unilateral and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem”, with an unprecedented surge in settlement activity. Does the Foreign Secretary concur with that view and, if so, what is he doing to ensure the future of Jerusalem as a shared capital as part of the negotiations?
Mr Hague: Jerusalem, as a shared capital, is part of what we believe is a characteristic of achieving a two-state solution, along with a solution based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps and with a just, fair and agreed settlement for refugees. It is vital that that possibility is kept open. That is why so many of us on all sides of the House have voiced such strong disapproval of settlements on occupied land, which are illegal. We make that point regularly to the Israelis—indeed, I will do so to an Israeli Minister this afternoon—and we urge them to take the opportunity of peace.
Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): Last December, the Foreign Secretary said that the British Government have been “clear to the Palestinians that there is no alternative to negotiations” and that “we oppose unilateral measures”. What representation has he made to the Palestinian Authority following its return to unilateral actions last week, in violation of its commitment to abstain for the duration of direct peace talks?
Mr Hague: I called President Abbas last Thursday to repeat our view that the only chance of achieving a viable and sovereign Palestinian state is through negotiations. President Abbas assured me that he remains committed to negotiations, so we will continue to encourage him and Israeli leaders to make a success—even at this stage—of this opportunity.
Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): It is essential that both sides return to negotiations and that they recognise that they will both have to make great compromises to secure a negotiated peace. Does the Foreign Secretary believe that the Palestinian leadership has been preparing the Palestinians for peace when terrorists freed by Israel have been welcomed in the Palestinian Authority as heroes? A broadcast by Palestinian Authority TV has honoured Dalal Mughrabi, who was responsible for a hijacking in which 37 Israeli citizens, including 12 children, were killed.
Mr Hague: Prisoner releases are always controversial in a peace process, as we know well in our own country, but I absolutely regard President Abbas, the leader of the Palestinians, as a man of peace, and I pay tribute to the bold leadership that he has shown on these issues in recent months. As she has just heard, I have urged him to continue with that, and we must focus on that point.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): What is Government policy on Palestine applying as a state to be a member of international political or cultural organisations?
Mr Hague: Last week, President Abbas signed and submitted letters of accession to 15 conventions, including the fourth Geneva convention. No decision is imminent or necessary at the moment on these things, and given that our focus is on urging both Palestinians and Israelis to make a success of the negotiations, I do not believe that it would be wise for us or other countries to pass judgment on those applications now.