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In the communiqué issued by the G8, we refer to and condemn the activities of the extremist groups and, more elliptically, as we say, those that support them. For most of us at the G8, we can be less elliptical. Hezbollah is supported by Iran and Syria: by the former in weapons, which incidentally are very similar, if not identical, to those used against British troops in Basra, by the latter, in many different ways; and by both of them financially.
What is at stake therefore could not be more stark. On the one side, there is Lebanon, a remarkable democratic achievement from the days when Lebanon was a by-word for instability and conflict. I have once again given Prime Minister Siniora my solidarity and support in the immense difficulties he now faces. There are also of course those in Israel and in Palestine desperate to see progress towards the only solution that will ever work there, namely, two statesIsrael and Palestine, both democratic, both independent and both at peace. But on the other side are those who want no compromise and who cannot see that terrorism is not the route to a solution, but a malign, fundamental obstacle to it. They persist in terrorism, knowing that its impact there is the same the world overto divide, to create hatred and to drive out negotiation. That is the purpose of it.
So what can be done? I know that many wanted the G8 to call for an immediate ceasefire by Israel. Of course, we all want all violence to stop, and to stop immediately, but we recognise that the only realistic way to achieve such a ceasefire is to address the underlying reasons why this violence has broken out.
In respect of Lebanon, the G8 proposed rapid work on inserting an international security presence in southern Lebanon to stabilise the situation, to ensure that the terrorism from the Lebanese side ends and, most importantly, to provide conditions in which the Lebanese armed forces can take control and assist them in doing so. Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-Generals special envoys are in the region and will report to the Security Council later this week. We welcome these and other efforts to calm the situation.
We also encouraged dialogue between the Lebanese and Israeli Governments, and we pledged at the G8 further economic support to Lebanon. And, of course, we demanded the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Only in that way can United Nations Security resolutions 1559 and 1680 in respect of Lebanon be implemented.
On Gaza, we made it clear that our goal was an immediate end to the violence, and again we put forward the measures necessaryrelease of the Israeli soldiers and of the Palestinian Ministers and parliamentarians; an end to attacks on Israel; resumption of security co-operation between Israel and Palestine; restarting political contacts between Israeli and Palestinian officials; and an end to Israeli military operations and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.
However, let us be plain. We can and must stabilise the existing situation in Lebanon and in Gaza. We must then use such stabilisation to help Lebanon rebuild and eventually to re-begin negotiations between Israel and Palestine. But at root, we need to recognise the fundamental nature of the struggle in this region, which has far-reaching consequenceconsequences far beyond that region and consequences even in countries
such as our own. All over the middle east, there are those who want to modernise their nations and who believe, as we do, in democracy and liberty and tolerance, but ranged against them are extremists who believe the oppositewho believe in fundamentalist states and are at war not against Israels actions, but against its existence. In virtually every country of the region, including on the streets of Baghdad, such a struggle is being played out. When this current crisis abates, that is the issue to which we must return, in the way that the G8 outlined two years ago but has not so far put fully into effect.
Let me turn to the other issues that were raised at the G8. On Africa, we made modest but important progress in taking forward the commitments of last year, including: scaling up action on HIV/AIDS through replenishing the global fund in 2006 and 2007; new initiatives on vaccines for malaria and pneumococcus; and fully funding the education fast-track initiative. We agreed to review progress on Africa again at the G8 summit in 2007. I have asked the International Development Secretary to set out the key milestones for the coming 12 months in his next report to Parliament. Those will include, for us, supporting 10 African countries, developing long-term education plans and getting the debts cancelled for five more African countries. Kofi Annan will also convene the Africa progress panel to monitor progress on the commitments given.
On trade, at the final session it was at last agreed by all to empower their negotiators to go further. The cost of the failure of that trade round for the worlds poor, global growth and multilateralism would be high. Presidents Bush, Barroso, Lula and Mbeki, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Singh of India all agreed to show flexibility. Pascal Lamy has been tasked immediately with convening trade negotiators to turn that clear commitment into action, which must deliver real cuts in agricultural tariffs and subsidies and progress on non-agricultural market access. I do not minimise the substantial obstacles that remain, but at least the renewed commitment from the United States, the European Union and the G20 countries was immensely welcome. We also agreed a strong package for poor countries, including $4 billion a year aid for trade and action on rules of origin. We remain fully committed to ensuring that, in any event, it would be utterly wrong for there to be no agreement in this round on a full development package for the poorest nations.
There was also a fascinating debate on energyof direct relevance to this countryat the summit. There was virtual consensus, in fact, on the following matters: first, energy prices will continue to rise, with a predicted increase of about 50 per cent. in energy demand by 2030. Secondly, climate change is now universally accepted as happening, including by the United States, and there is therefore an urgent necessity to make future economic growth sustainable. Thirdly, countries will need to have balanced energy policies, in which clean coal technology, carbon sequestration,
renewables and nuclear power have to play a part. Our energy review was therefore absolutely in line with that consensus.
On nuclear, it was interesting to note the statement by China that it intends to develop nuclear power, by India that it regarded it as indispensable, and by many of the main oil producers, including Kazakhstan, that they would balance their reliance on their oil and gas with nuclear. That was also the conclusion of the J8the young people from around the world who debated the issue.
The G8 also agreed on the need to accelerate discussions on an inclusive dialogue for a post-2012 climate change framework and, importantly, that that framework should include the United States, China and India. The G8 supported the need for a goal to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations. The Gleneagles dialogue meeting in Mexico will be the next step in taking that work forward. Finally, we agreed several other texts, which have been placed in the Library.
The summit was held in circumstances that none of us could have foreseen. It was obviously dominated by the middle east. However, its conclusions on Africa, trade and energy will, I hope, stand the test of time. I commend the conclusions to the House.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. It is a deeply troubling time. The citizens of Israel and Lebanon are suffering, many British citizens are caught up in the conflict and there is a real danger that the conflict will escalate. Everyone has been watching as the worlds most powerful leaders met in St. Petersburg while a vital region descended into war. They want and expect concerted action.
The Prime Minister spoke in his statement about creating the conditions for implementing a ceasefire. He is right that they must include the release of Israeli hostages, the end of rocket attacks on Israel and a future for Lebanon without armed militias. Is not it the case that we will achieve lasting peace only by addressing the underlying causes of the crisis? I have some questions about the immediate crisis and the longer-term issues, and wider questions about progress on the Gleneagles agenda.
The Prime Minister spoke about the differing emphasis in the G8 and the varying degrees of ellipticality, if I may put it like that. Despite that, will there be an intense, co-ordinated and powerful effort to bring about a resolution to the crisis in the coming days? We know that the Prime Minister is considering visiting the middle east. What part will he play in the process and how will it fit in with the role of other countries? He mentioned a UN force to act as a security presence. Can he tell us what its mandate would be, which countries have, so far, shown willingness to contribute and, given John Boltons remarks, does it have the full support of the United States?
Stability requires the Lebanese Government to exercise full control over their country and to disband the militias. Does not that mean that United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 needs to be implemented in full? As the Prime Minister said, it is
now clear for all to see that the involvement of Iran and Syria in Hamas and Hezbollah is deeply destructive and needs to be addressed.
The whole House will be concerned about the safety of British citizens in the middle east. The Minister for the Middle East, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), said yesterday that this was potentially the biggest British evacuation since Dunkirk. What clear advice is being given to British citizens? Will the Prime Minister tell us what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office work together as one in a co-ordinated way? The Prime Minister mentioned the warships that have been sent to the eastern Mediterranean. Is he confident that there is sufficient capacity to evacuate everyone for whom we are responsible and to accommodate them in Cyprus?
Tackling the long-term causes will involve restarting the road map, tackling Irans nuclear ambitions and ending Syrian involvement in Lebanon. The US has offered to have direct talks with Iran, should enrichment activity be fully suspended. Does the Prime Minister agree that there is no longer any excuse for Iranian intransigence? With these significant developments in this strategically vital part of the world, and with so many British citizensconstituents of ourscaught up in the crisis, does the Prime Minister agree that we need a full-scale foreign affairs debate before Parliament rises for the summer recess?
On Gleneagles, I welcome what the Prime Minister said about the progress that has been made over the past year. On the target for HIV treatments by 2010, it is vital that interim targets be set, as we suggested. Were those targets backed specifically by the G8? A successful trade round will do more than anything to alleviate poverty. The Prime Minister said that, at the end of the G8, leaders were empowered to show flexibility. Should we be concerned that the list of leaders that he read out did not include President Chirac of France?
Time is running out. Is not this one of those moments that represents a genuine test for the G8, for the short and long term? There is a vital need for a trade deal, and today, as hundreds of innocent civilians are dying in Israel and Lebanon and thousands of British citizens remain trapped in the conflict, is there not an urgent need for concerted action to deal with the crisis?
The Prime Minister:
I agree in essence with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Let me just respond to some of the points that he raised. First, there will of course be an intense effort at Thursdays meeting of the United Nations Security Council to talk about this issue. The question of a stabilisation force or a security presence will be debated there. That proposal was supported by all the G8 countries. Of course, it will take time to build up such a force, and we will need the circumstances to be conducive to its going into southern Lebanon. I have said constantly over the past few days that even if we manage to stabilise the existing situation and to calm it down, there will still be a risk of a recrudescence of what has happened recently unless a force is put in there. If we are able to stabilise
the situation, it will be important that we put in place mechanisms that will allow Lebanon to take more control of its own future.
That leads me to the important point that the United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 in respect of Lebanon was passed 20 months ago. People sometimes forget that. It called for the disbanding of all the militias in southern Lebanon and for an end to all the support being given to them. It also called for the Lebanese forces to be able to take control of the whole country. So it is not as though we have never been able to predict the possibility of such circumstances arising. It is therefore important to recognise that we will have to ensure that that resolution is implemented. It will be very difficult to do that, however, given the state of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese nation at the present time.
That leads me on to the next point, which has to do with Iran and Syria as they effectively support Hezbollah, financially and with weapons. That is why we will of course keep up the diplomatic pressure on Iran to comply with its international obligations, and we urge Syria to take the action that it could take in relation to Hezbollah if it wanted to do so.
We believe that by the end of the week, as the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence said, we can evacuate about 5,000 British citizens and dual nationals. The first ship is docking today; another ship will take even more people tomorrow, and we are making progress on that as rapidly as possible.
We did agree again with the G8 targets on Africa and, yes, I did choose reasonably carefully those people I listed as being in favour of flexibility at the World Trade Organisation. It is important to recognise that each of the main actors has to determine their position by reference to somebody else: President Bush makes reference to Congress; the G20 nations meet as a collective; Brazil and India cannot simply take the decision on their own; and, of course, the European Union has its own procedures and has to agree a position. What was good was the virtually unanimous view around the table that we need to make progress at the WTO, and a very strong statement from the UN Secretary-General to that effect. It was very much as a result of what was said by us and other countries that Pascal Lamy was able to attend the summit. I hope that the talks will make progress. If they do not, it will be a very great failure, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to imply that such a failure is the last thing we need at this moment. We need to show multilateral institutions succeeding, and it is for that reason, among many others, that I hope that the WTO talks succeed.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD):
It is clear that there was much constructive work done at the G8 in relation to Africa, the Doha round and energy, but it was inevitable, as today has already demonstrated, that the concentration would be on the middle east. We can agree that the recent events constitute a threat to the stability of the whole region. We can also agree that we will be able to rely on the professionalism of our armed forces to effect the necessary evacuation of British citizens. However, will the Government, on Thursday in New York, press for the Security Council to call for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire? How will it be possible to insert
an international force unless there is a ceasefire? Such a force could hardly fight its way in.
We must all accept that the indiscriminate firing of rockets and missiles into Israel by Hezbollah is unacceptable, but so too is the targeted and systematic destruction of the infrastructure of Lebanon. What would happen if the Lebanese Government, already weakened, were to fall? What, indeed, will happen if the prediction of the Israeli Chief of Staffthat Lebanon will go back to what it was 20 years agocomes about? Who will fill the vacuum that will be caused as a result? How will that be in the interests of long-term stability and peace in the region?
We must all accept that Israel has a moral and a legal right to live in peace within recognised and secure borders, but does the Prime Minister accept that that right does not legitimise action that is disproportionate and amounts to collective punishment, both in Lebanon and in Gaza?
The Prime Minister: I agree that we want a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, but that will happen only if it happens on all sides. As I said in my statement, it is important that action by Israel is proportionate, but we have to understand how this began and the underlying reasons for its beginning. Those reasons are that there are groups that have decided to take these steps at this moment. They are completely disregarding the welfare of Lebanon and, indeed, of Palestinians in Gaza. They have decided to take action that means that Israel will, of course, defend itself because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly says, it has a moral and legal right to do so.
The only way that we are going to get a solutionbecause whatever our nuances, we are all essentially in the same placeis, first, to put in place a strategy to calm the situation, and secondly, to deal with those deep underlying causes. That is why it is important to discuss the stabilisation force. It cannot, of course, fight its way in, but if we end up with the conditions negotiated for a cessation of hostilities, we at least need to consider having some sort of buffer force between Lebanon and Israel to allow us to create a situation in which the same problem does not break out again.
In the end, it depends on what one believes about why this happened. One can take two views. One can take the view that it was a spontaneous occurrence as a result of what was happening in Gaza. Alternatively, one can take the view, as I am afraid I do, that it was not spontaneous, but was a deliberate act of strategy to ensure that the conflict was widened. If one takes the latter view, that means that those who began the conflict in Lebanon will not give up easily. Israel will defend itself, and it is therefore important for the international community to find the means of enforcing a cessation of hostilities on both sides. We can rest assured that unless the Israeli soldiers are released and the rockets1,500 of which have come over to the Israeli sideare stopped, Israel will carry on defending itself. A cessation of hostilities is needed on both sides, and measures need to be taken to try to prevent this from happening again while we work on the underlying problems in that region, which, increasingly in my view, are directly connected in an arc from Iran right across the middle east.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the need for an international security presence. He knows that there has been an international presence in Lebanon for many years. Can he clarify the implication of the current proposal? Will any force be under the United Nations? Will it be under chapter VI or chapter VII? How will it be deployed, and under what rules of engagement? Can he also emphasise what is being done to ensure that the conflict is not widened, which is a great danger? He has referred to Syria and Iran and their support for Hezbollah. What is being done by the G8 to ensure that Syria does not get involved and that the conflagration does not widen throughout the whole region?
The Prime Minister: As my hon. Friend rightly implies, we must put every pressure on Syria. In a sense, the most important point is that the conflict has already been widenedthat was the purpose of the incursion into northern Israel. It is therefore important to ensure that we now back off the situation. He is right that the United Nations interim force in Lebanon, which is about 1,600 to 1,800 strong, has been there for many years. If we put in a stabilisation force, it must be of a different order of magnitude, with a proper chapter VII resolution and with serious rules of engagement. Those matters will be discussed over the days and no doubt weeks to come, and if there is a better idea I would like to hear it. However, I do not see how we get this stopped and remove the danger of it starting again unless some objective measure is taken, by way of force, to prevent Hezbollah beginning such action again when those behind it decide that it is strategically advantageous to do so.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): The Prime Minister failed to respond to the Leader of the Oppositions request for an urgent debate on the middle east. Will he now confirm that that debate will take place, because our constituents will not understand if the House rises next week without such a debate?
The Prime Minister: The only reason why I did not do so is that, obviously, that discussion should take place between the usual channels. I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, however, and I understand its importance.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most ominous aspect of the current crisis is Iranian and Syrian support for the terrorist organisations, Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both pledged to destroy Israel? Does he agree that it is proportionate for Israel to defend itself against unwarranted aggression from organisations that pledge that countrys destruction?
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