Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Responses from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Questions from the Foreign Affairs Committee on EU Trade Agreement with Israel

  FAC Question 1:  With reference to paragraph 15 of the Government's reply, what reduction in human rights abuses does the Government consider to have been achieved by the targeted dêmarches and other representations through which the EU has raised human rights concerns with the Israeli Government?

  In the last year, there have been several EU dêmarche on closures, extra-judicial killings, the repayment of tax revenues and settlements, as well as representations on the Israeli incursions into Palestinian Authority controlled areas (Area A). Our efforts have not led to significant reductions in human rights abuses. The Government of Israel has refused to pay to the Palestinian Authority the tax revenues due to it. Closures have eased from time to time but they can be and are reimposed at short notice. Currently, they are tightly maintained, leading to widespread deprivation. Settlement activity has continued, although we judge that the expansion of settlements might have been less restrained if the international community had not urged Israel to freeze such activity. The EU and the UK will continue to seek greater respect for human rights by both Israelis and Palestinians by maintaining the pressure on both parties to fulfil commitments, respect international law and exercise restraint.

  FAC Question 2:  Without reference to the general question of the suspension of trade agreements (which the Committee may wish to pursue separately) but with specific reference to Israel, are there human rights-related circumstances in which the Government would press for the suspension of any EU trade agreement with Israel, and if so, will it set out what these circumstances are?

  The Association Agreement has a human rights clause, which states that "Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement." (Article 2). There are human rights-related circumstances in which the Government would press for discussion within the EU of the suspension of the trade agreement with Israel. It would then be for the Council to make a decision in the light of article 2. But it would be unhelpful for the UK to publicly set out in advance criteria for suspension.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

October 2001

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