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Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, and indeed for advanced sight of it. He has covered a plethora of different issues; I hope I will be allowed to pursue some of themfirst, the conference on Iraq at Sharm el-Sheikh. We welcome signs of greater participation by Iraq's neighbours and the progress that he reported was made at that conference. However, is a new stabilisation force likely to be sent to Iraq, and who would take part in it? For instance, are there any signs of Arab, Indian or Russian participation in such a force?
Given the role of unemployment, particularly among the young, in acting as a recruiting incentive for troublemakers in Iraq, a serious and intensive job creation programme linked to necessary public works should be encouraged. What progress was made in that regard?
As the Foreign Secretary said, democratic elections are an essential part of the stabilisation of Iraq. I hear what he had to say about those elections. Is he totally convinced that this date will not be changed? Could, for instance, the alleged collapse of Iraqi policing in Mosul have a bearing on whether the January date can be met for a comprehensive and secure election?
Turning briefly to Iran, while I welcome the Foreign Secretary's announcement that the resolution has been passed by the board in Vienna today, what long-term reliance does he believe we can genuinely put on the "voluntary suspension" of the enrichment programme, which the Iranians have announced? For instance, are the centrifuges, which have now been included, going to be left open or sealed off? I believe that the answer to that could provide us with an indication.
What precise guarantees have the Foreign Secretary and his German and French colleagues given the Iranian Government, and are these individual national guarantees from each of those nations, or EU guarantees? Incidentally, when will the Iranians give us back the boats they illegally seized from us some months ago?
The House will have listened with great interest to what the Foreign Secretary had to say about the middle east peace process. There is generally a feeling that there is a new if small window of opportunity. While I was in Cairo for Yasser Arafat's funeral, a senior Palestinian told me that
As well as what he has already disclosed to us today, did the Foreign Secretary find any evidence of how it has changed in terms of potential future negotiations? For instance, were there any indications that there might be a little more flexibility on crucial elements, such as Jerusalem and the right to return?
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Does the Foreign Secretary agree that in general, this is very much not the time for hasty megaphone diplomacy or rushed initiatives with regard to this process? The election of Arafat's successor is a crucial element in creating the environment for resumed dialogue towards a two-state solution. Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that neither he nor any of the Quartet will seek to influence those elections, and that so long as they are free and fair, we will all accept the outcome? I welcome his confirmation that the Israeli Government will allow the election to be freely conducted in east Jerusalem. And while respecting their duty to protect their citizens from terrorism, did he also take the opportunity to discuss with the Israeli Government the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision, which would move the security fence so as to allow 100,000 acres of west bank land to remain undivided?
In the longer term, did the Foreign Secretary discuss, as we have previously discussed in this House, the possibility of a senior American political figure presiding even-handedly and continuously over resumed dialogue, in very much the dynamic facilitating role that Senator Mitchell performed for us in an earlier context in Northern Ireland? Will he take this opportunity to tell us what the truth is about Javier Solana's alleged contacts with Hamas? Can he clear up the confusion as to what actually happened, on whose behalf Solana was acting, and on what date he himself first knew about those contacts? Would any such contacts with active terrorist groups require to be authorised in advance by the Council of Ministers? If there was such a meeting on this occasion, was it so authorised?
Finally, on Ukraine, our hearts instinctively must go out to the followers of Mr. Yuschenko, who feel that they were robbed of their democratic rights by an unfair election. Whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, it is difficult to envisage a way out of the impasse without a rerun election under proper scrutiny. The divisions run deepand, as we have seen on our television screens, the emotions too. The dangers of secession are great, and the shock waves if that happened could resonate way beyond the borders of Ukraine, not least in terms of European energy supplies and the west's future relations with Russia.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the people of Ukraine must make their own decision without unwarranted interference or undue influence by either the EU or Russia? Heavy-handed intervention on either side could inflame the situation beyond repair. Of course, if asked, we should stand ready to help to enable free and fair elections to be held, but we should not seek to sway them in any way.
There are times, as we saw in Berlin, Romania and Georgia, when people speak louder than their politicians, and when their courage and fortitude can bring down walls where politics have failed to shift even a single stone. Looking at those thousands and thousands of hopeful faces braving the freezing cold to demonstrate peacefully for their democratic rights, this might just be such a time again. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.
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Mr. Straw: Let me answer the right hon. and learned Gentleman's questions in turn. First, on Iraq, he asked about a new stabilisation force. There are no proposals for a new force. The current mandate of the multinational force is referred to in the communiqué and effectively endorsed by it. On programmes to reduce unemployment, there has been a huge increase in job creation in Iraq since the fall of Saddam. What stands in the way of further job creation is the security situation. That further underlines that the efforts of the terrorists and rejectionists in Iraq are far more directed at ordinary Iraqis and their future than they are even at troops of the multinational force.
On the issue of the date for elections, all of us accept that meeting the date of 30 January will be difficult, but the judgment currently being made by the independent elections commission for Iraq, and by most, not all, leading Iraqis is that whatever the difficulties, it is better to aim for that date than to appear to delay. That was the point made by Dr. Barham Salih, the Deputy Prime Minister, speaking on "Breakfast with Frost" yesterday. He said:
On Iran, the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked what long-term reliance we can place on the agreement. Iran has made a solemn agreement, which includes all the centrifuges. The detail of how it will be subject to surveillance or seal is set out in the resolution and the agreements, and in letters and statements by Dr. El-Baradei and the Iranians. If the Iranians fail to meet their undertakingsI believe that they will meet themthey face censure by the board of governors, reference to the United Nations Security Council, and an end to the quid pro quo that the E3 and the EU have offered in the Paris agreement.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked about the boats. I raised the issue with Kamal Kharazi during a meeting that I had with him last Tuesday, and pressed him again for the release of the boats. He accepted that they were British property, which indeed they are. I pointed out to him that as there was no disagreement about that, it was time we got them back.
Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say that this is no time for megaphone diplomacy in regard to the middle east. That is true. I do not think that anyone wants megaphone diplomacy; what people want to see is quiet but solid progress.
There are outstanding very difficult issues, including the status of Jerusalem and the right of return. They can only be resolved, as the road map anticipates, in the final-status negotiations. I believe that they can be resolved, just as some incredibly difficult issues were resolved in the Northern Ireland negotiations. Things that appeared impossible for either party to consider some years ago are now being resolved. Such resolution depends on the building up of a climate of confidence, which is why the elections, co-operation in the electoral process and the withdrawal from Gaza and its aftermath are so important.
I did indeed raise the issue of the security fence with both Foreign Minister Shalom and Vice-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. I discussed the High Court decision, but
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also pointed out to the Israeli Government that Members in all parts of the House felt that the siting of the fencein so far as it departs from the internationally accepted border between Israel and the occupied territorieswas unlawful, and palpably served Israel's long-term purpose no more than it served that of the Palestinians.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about Hamas and the position of Javier Solana, the EU High Representative. I would accept that question from almost anyone but an Opposition Front Bencherand I am pleased that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), too, is sitting on the Front Bench. Our position has always been clear: we will not deal with Hamas as long as it remains a banned organisation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has evidently forgotten what was said during Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions on 14 October last year. A member of his own Front-Bench team at that moment, speaking, I assume, for the Conservative party at that moment, said:
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