Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. Before you reach an agreement each side has got to say what it will do. The Palestinians are looking, are they not, for a commitment that the settlements will go, Israel is looking for a settlement where the settlements will be recognised within secure boundaries, and the two have to come together?
  (Mr Hain) They do and it is one of the many tragedies of the last few months that both sides were very, very close to an agreement on this matter and on Jerusalem and on refugees. There were very deep issues involved but only a very narrow difference between them. Sometimes when peace negotiations get to the point when an agreement is about to be secured that is when it gets most difficult, as we have seen elsewhere in the world, and certainly appears to be the case here. I think this matter could have been not resolved as much as satisfactorily agreed between both sides.


  41. Are you talking about at Camp David?
  (Mr Hain) Yes, Camp David and around that time. Camp David was in its own sense a tragedy.

  42. What is your reading of the failure of Camp David? Why did it happen?
  (Mr Hain) I do not think it was well-handled.

Sir David Madel

  43. By whom?
  (Mr Hain) I do not think it was well prepared for. If you do not mind Chairman, I do not want to start casting blame at any particular individuals or groups or countries because I do not think that takes us very far, but anybody close to the negotiations knew that both sides had been working out on maps and with technical reports in the kind of detail with a lot of consensus by that time and it was just tragic that the diplomatic choreography of Camp David was unable to take it that step further.

  44. On page 60 of the report a reference is made to the Conflict Prevention Fund activity in the Middle East. What is the Conflict Prevention Fund? You refer to what it has done but what is it actually doing now?
  (Mr Hain) I think I am right in saying that one of the things it is doing now is helping fund—although it may be an alternative stream—the experts of a legal and technical kind for the Palestinian negotiators because the two negotiating teams have been very lop-sided. Obviously Israel has the whole expert team of a state; the Palestinians are not a state. That is one of the things we have been doing.

  45. Is it possible that it would fund British observers as to what is going on? Would that be its role?
  (Mr Hain) Do you mean, Sir David, in the context of the current discussions about international observers with the United Nations and elsewhere?

  46. Yes.
  (Mr Hain) I am not sure, but I do not think funding for observers would be a problem; I think getting an agreement on the basis upon which they could be deployed is the problem with which we are grappling now.

  47. There has been a lot of talk about increasing tension. If we got observers there it would help to lower tension, so are we pushing as a Government that observers should go there?
  (Mr Hain) We have, with the French, been very active in the Security Council seeking to get agreement on this. I think inch by inch we are making some progress because it is our view that, as distinct from a UN peace-keeping force to separate the two parties, which I do not think is realistic or would go through the United Nations Security Council even if it were realistic, there is a strong argument, as the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister have made clear to Israel amongst others, for having independent observers able to see what is going on and able to act as a deterrent by virtue of their independent scrutiny on the ground, and we are very much in favour of that.

  48. Who is holding things up in the Security Council?
  (Mr Hain) There is a whole series of complexities there which, if you will allow me, I am not going again to start, in the middle of a very delicate diplomatic tangle, to suggest who is holding it up or who is not, although everybody might take a guess, but we are working as hard as we can to get a resolution hopefully before Christmas, although whether that is achievable or not, I do not know.

Sir John Stanley

  49. Minister, on page 18 of your report you draw attention, rightly in my view, to Iraq's so-called, and you rightly put it in inverted commas, "prison-cleansing campaign" and what you say about the mass slaughter that has been going on in Iraqi prisons is well corroborated, I thought, by the piece in The Observer on 3 December under the heading "Executioner tells of mass slaughter in Saddam's jails" where it says: "An ex-member of the security service in Baghdad has given chilling details of how he helped slaughter countless prisoners." That article in The Observer ends with this final paragraph: "Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain, said: `Nobody should forget Saddam's evil bestiality. Those who want the United Nations to abandon sanctions and walk away are inviting him to terrorise Iraqi Kurds in the north, his neighbours and the region with horrendous violence.'" Can we take it from that, Minister, that there is absolutely no softening in the British Government's position on sanctions as being applied to Iraq?
  (Mr Hain) There is no change in our policy, which was set out in Resolution 1284, which we more than anybody else got agreed by the United Nation's Security Council which provides for a suspension in sanctions in return for arms' inspectors going in and identifying whether, as we suspect, there are still stockpiles of chemical and biological capabilities and a latent nuclear capability as well. We want to see sanctions suspended but there is no softening of our position in the sense we have no alternative but to maintain the current regime of sanctions given Saddam Hussein's unwillingness to co-operate with the United Nations Security Council and international law.

  50. Do you still feel confident that you will be able maintain international support for the existing sanctions policy, including within the EU where a number of EU Member States, such as France conspicuously, appear to be almost ready to follow a completely different policy?
  (Mr Hain) No. I very much take the point that you make. The problem has been, and this bedevils the situation, that the critics of sanctions, first of all, do not have an alternative policy. They are virtually advising Britain and the international community to walk away from Iraq and leave Saddam Hussein to do exactly the things I said in that quote, to attack his neighbours and the Kurds, and to run riot in his own country and the region again. The other thing that I think is deplorable about the levels of criticism that have come from a number of countries, and also individuals, is that effectively they are providing Saddam Hussein with an excuse to just sit tight because he thinks he is winning a propaganda battle and therefore they are colluding in the maintenance of a situation to which they are opposed. What I believe they should do is unite with us in seeking implementation of Resolution 1284 which could within 180 days get sanctions suspended in return for the UN team going in. That is the position that the critics and ourselves could unite around to take the whole situation forward, and that is what I think they should be doing.

  51. Do you anticipate that the incoming US administration will continue the previous administration's firm adherence to sanctions in relation to Iraq?
  (Mr Hain) I think so although obviously, as our preliminary discussions have confirmed, they will want to review the situation, as any incoming administration does, to see how it can be improved upon and to see how we can get the Resolution to a position of being implemented, which is obviously the preferred policy. I do not see any lightening, if that is the right term, or reduction of resolve on the part of the administration of an incoming President Bush from the present one, but time marches on and we all need to review where we are going.

Mr Maples

  52. Minister, would the Government ever consider inviting Saddam Hussein to Britain on a state visit?
  (Mr Hain) No.

  53. What about the leaders of the Burmese military regime?
  (Mr Hain) No.

  54. What about the Pakistan military regime?
  (Mr Hain) No.

  55. President Mugabe?
  (Mr Hain) I do not think that has been top of our list.

  56. It is an interesting contrast, is it not, because at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference last year we moved to have Pakistan suspended from the Commonwealth but we put President Mugabe on a high-level Commission to discuss the future of the Commonwealth. Were those both ethical decisions?
  (Mr Hain) First of all, President Mugabe is a senior member of the Commonwealth Heads of Commonwealth Conference and obviously Zimbabwe has a claim to such high level membership as others do, and it is a matter for agreement in the Commonwealth. Let me emphasise, in case my reply seemed at all flippant, we do not have any plans to invite President Mugabe on a state visit. We had President Chissano of Mozambique, a very respected African leader and one of his neighbours, only last week. I think that is the kind of African leader that we want to see received by the Queen and Prime Minister.

  57. The President of Pakistan is a senior Commonwealth leader as well and I wonder if there is a slight distinction in the ethics applied to left-wing human rights' offenders and right-wing human rights' offenders. Here we have the Pakistan military regime and Burma which we are very tough on, whereas regarding Castro the Foreign Secretary suggested in a speech to your Party Conference two years ago that the best way to deal with Cuba was to lift economic sanctions, whilst a page later he said the best way to deal with Burma was to impose economic sanctions. Is there a distinction?
  (Mr Hain) Before I come to that very direct question, which I will answer directly, the difference between General Musharraf and President Mugabe is that President Mugabe is elected. You and I might not like—

  58. He lost the election. He rigged it—
  (Mr Hain) No, he was elected democratically as the President of Zimbabwe some years ago. He lost a referendum and he only narrowly won, after a lot of violence and intimidation of the opposition, a parliamentary election, but he is an elected leader. The point we made about General Musharraf—and it applies to Burma as well of course—is that here is a military junta overthrowing and nullifying a democratic process and I think that puts people in a totally different position. We do not like what President Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe. I and the Foreign Secretary have been more critical than anybody else internationally of the destruction of the country and the devastation of the economy that his policies are responsible for.

  59. In this scale of human rights' offenders from Saddam Hussein, as probably one of the worst, to President Mugabe, who you seem prepared to tolerate—
  (Mr Hain) No, I do not accept that. I do not tolerate President Mugabe. What do you mean "tolerate"? We have been vociferous to the point where people have said maybe we were too strong.

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