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The Prime Minister:
Of course it is important for Israel to defend itself, and I am sure my hon. Friend agrees that it should do so in a proportionate way that minimises the dangers of civilian casualties. She is, however, right to say that the root of the problem is support for groups that do not want a peaceful solution to the problems of the region. The tragedy of the situation is that Lebanon has made so much progress
over the past few years, and now that progress is being put at riskbut it is being put at risk as a result of a deliberate strategy to destabilise the country.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): During his rather charmingly self-depreciative luncheon conversation with President Bush at St. Petersburg about Syria and sweaters, did the Prime Ministerafter he had switched off the microphonemake any attempt to explain to the President that one of the root causes of the spread of chaos in the middle east has been the failure, over 40 years, of successive American Administrations to persuade Israel to accept United Nations resolution 242, which requires it to return to its legal frontiers of 1967? That failure has caused an inevitable degree of bitterness, which has led to the creation and sustaining of various guerrilla militias which are now increasingly regarded as part of an Islamic jihad.
The Prime Minister: If it were merely that the cause of all this was the failure to abide by resolution 242, which we supportbut there must be a better explanation for the rejection of the agreement that President Clinton reached with the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Prime Minister Barak, and the offer that was made to the Palestinian Authority then. There must be a better explanation for what happened with the road map, which provides a perfectly sensible way through this. We had to battle very hard to get America and Israel to agree to the road map, but the defaulting in respect of that was not on the Israeli side. There must be a better explanation as to why it cannot now be agreed on the Palestinian side that if there is to be a two-state solution, that means recognising Israels right to exist.
I do not say that mistakes have not been made in relation to this, through America, through ourselves, and through others over the years, but I think that the issue is now far more fundamental. The fact is that America would take this forward and deliver a two-state solution for the Palestinian peopleI am sure of thatif we could secure the simple acceptance that only through non-violent, democratic negotiation can such a solution be found.
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Of course Israel has the right to self-defence against terrorism, but surely what is going on now in Lebanon and Gaza goes far beyond any legitimate self-defence. Must not the world community make it clear that if it is unacceptable, as it obviously is, for Hezbollah and Hamas to fire rockets at civilian targets in Israel, it is also unacceptable for Israel to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in Lebanon? The world must say that clearly, or it will encourage those in Israel and those on the other side of the conflict who want to provoke further action leading to further military conflict on a wider scale throughout the region.
The Prime Minister:
I understand my hon. Friends concern that the reaction of Israel has been disproportionate. It is a difficult situation. We can imagine how it would be in our own democracy if we
were faced with such a situationif our own citizens were being killed through hostile action. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are now in shelter, having been evacuated from their homes, and their soldiers have been killed in such a brutal way.
I do not want to repeat myself, but there is only one way in which we can change the situation. People can go this way or that in terms of whom they wish to condemn, but, as I know my hon. Friend would accept, this began with an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah on Israel, and I do not think that one can really be surprised at the response.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): May I switch the subject to what was a backdrop to the G8 summitthe position of President Putin and his attitude to the use of energy almost as a weapon of diplomacy? Did the Prime Minister have time to talk to President Putin about what is going on in Russia, and about what Russias ambitions are in the near area, as he calls it? That is particularly relevant, given that the need for this country to invest in nuclear power is partly due to our need for a sense of assurance about our sources of energy, because of the threat that Russia may one day use our need for energy against us.
The Prime Minister: We did discuss that, and the Russians gave a clear assurance that they would abide by the charter on energy that we drew up and promulgated at the summit. I expressed my view, as I always do, that the only way to make progress in Russia or elsewhere is by adherence to democratic principles. To be fair, the Russian President made it very clear that he understands peoples anxieties about security of supply, which was the reason why he felt it right to adopt and agree to the charter that we all signed. The hon. Gentleman is right that one of the reasons why it is so important to have a balanced energy policy is to ensure that we are not too reliant on any one source.
Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the ongoing escalation of violence over the last eight years has continued because of the targeted nature of the Israeli response to the extreme groups within Gaza, Palestine and Lebanon, which deliberately attempts to inflame the situation? The unprecedented response of the Israelis, involving the killing of children and civilians and the targeting of infrastructure, is an attempt to weaken the forces of the Palestinian Authority and the Lebanese army and there is no way that that will support their cause. I support the idea of having an international stabilisation force, not just in Lebanon, but in Gaza and Palestine, in order to cessate the forces that are continually launching attacks on Israel and to secure the necessary protection.
The Prime Minister: I would simply say that I entirely understand my hon. Friends concern, but the trouble is that, in the end, the purpose of terrorism is to provoke retaliation, which then provokes further bloodshed and misery. That is why we have to go back to the root cause of the terrorism.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): Would the Prime Minister accept that I strongly believe that it would be a great mistake to try to beef up UNIFIL? Such an international force would have to be very substantial if it were to command the ground; otherwise it would be basebound, in fear of its life against Hezbollah suicide bombersthey saw off MNF-II in 1983 and would do it again. I agree with the Prime Ministers analysis, but I urge him to acknowledge that what matters most is to get the two-state talks going again and fully to engage the United States of America and the European Union together towards that end. After all, it was the Americans and the French who saw off the Syrians. This is not a lost cause and I urge the Prime Minister to proceed with all possible speed.
The Prime Minister: Essentially, I agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I agree in respect of UNIFIL that it would have to be a completely different type of force, but its purpose would be to provide security for the time that it takes for the Lebanese forces to come down. After all, that was what was supposed to happen with resolution 1559: the militias were supposed to be cleared out and the Lebanese forces were supposed to come in. The truth is that that has never happened.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): May I associate myself with my right hon. Friends remarks on the middle east crisis, which clearly overshadowed the summit, and particularly on the need for a proportionate response? I also thank him for his positive response to the statement from the G8 plus 5 group of legislators organised by GLOBE UK, the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success in including some of those objectives, such as the need to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions and the need for an inclusive framework, but can he assure me that the other G8 leaders recognise the other aspect of the statementthe urgency of the need to tackle climate change and the question whether Germany will continue that process under its presidency?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his work in that area. Had it not been for the fact that the middle east so much overshadowed the summit, I would have spent quite a long time on the energy conclusions, which areas he saysinteresting and positive. There is an agreement to take the G8 plus 5 dialogue forward. There is also an agreement to ensure that we have a framework that stabilises greenhouse gas emissions and the US has also signed up to that. Round the table, it was interesting that every single person accepted the urgency of the issue and the need to develop the right framework very quickly to make progress, so that the private sector in particular, but also countries, are incentivised to develop the science and technology necessary to deal with it. Again, I thank my hon. Friend for his input into that.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC):
The Prime Minister very fairly said that progress on Africa was modest. With regard to the G8 sanctioning initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, when shall we have practical decisions and not just declarations on
the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the urgently needed programmes to bring education to the 100 million poor children in Africa?
The Prime Minister: Actually, substantial sums of money have been pledged to the global health fundhundreds of millions, if not several billion dollars. In respect of malaria, a plan is in place and the funding is being built up for it. Education is an important part of the discussion and this country has pledged £8.5 billion over the next 10 years for education in the poorest parts of the world in Africa. Although there is a lot more to do on education, there was a very strong recommitment to the funding and the principles of action that were set out at Gleneagles last year.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): Could my right hon. Friend say a little more about his talks on the security of energy supply? He predicts an increase in energy demand of 50 per cent. by 2030, but given that we need to ensure, in our national interests, that we have security of supply, does he think that our energy review has paid sufficient attention to how much energy we will need to produce in our own country?
The Prime Minister: That is a very good point. Although we have pushed this to its furthest extent on renewables, energy efficiency and replacing nuclear power stations, my hon. Friend is right in that we will go from virtual self-sufficiency in oil and gas to 80 to 90 per cent. dependency on imports. A third of our generating capacity will close in the next 15 or 20 years and energy prices are set to rise. But that is the most that we believe we can achieve in this energy review at present. In years to come, people will have to look at how they can drive the process even faster forward.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): May I return the Prime Minister to what, in conversation with President Bush, he referred to as the trade thingy and, in particular, the serious situation facing the Doha trade liberalisation round? As we do not have our own trade policy in this country, will he talk urgently to Commissioner Mandelson, who does control our trade policy, and ask him to face down the forces of protectionism in Europe and table a more generous offer? The price of failure will not be paid by us or other member states, but by the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world.
The Prime Minister: At the risk of shocking us both, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that. I would point out only that the statement made by Commissioner Mandelson was very strong on that point. If a whole series of fresh offers are laid on the table, there will definitely be a battle in many different parts of the world over whether they can be implemented. It is worth pointing out that everything that is on the table at the moment is conditional on everything else being agreed. But if people even did what they have offered now, this trade round would be two or three times more effective than the last trade round. The trouble is that until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed. That is the purpose of the more generous offers.
Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): As deadly violence again convulses the middle east, is the lesson for that region that peoples will find stability not in being secure against each other, but in being secure with each other, including against terrorism? The Prime Minister has been less elliptical about Syria and Iran: can he also be less elliptical about the proportionality of Israels offensive response? Can he also be less elliptical about the prospects for trade justice? Does the statement that
we remain fully committed to ensuring that in any event it would be utterly wrong for there not to be a full development package for the poorest
The Prime Minister: I accept the implied rebuke of my syntax. The answer is that I thinkit has to be agreedthat there will be, in any event, an agreement on a development package. We have a far better chance of getting a development package if there is an overall agreement on the trade round. My hon. Friend, from the process in which he is engaged, will find it interesting to think that 10 years ago, it looked as though the Palestinian peace process was in better shape than that in Northern Ireland. The lesson of the last 10 years is that, unless people are put into a process that ensures continual dialogue, the danger is that the extremes take over, because there is a political vacuum there.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Accepting entirely the good sense of the G8 statement on the middle east and both what the Prime Minister said today and what the Minister for the Middle East so admirably said yesterday, will the Prime Minister tell the House precisely what the United Kingdom and the United States are doing to bring home this message in Tehran, in Damascus and, on the subject of disproportionality, in Jerusalem?
The Prime Minister: We are doing absolutely everything that we can in the contacts that we have had with the Israeli Governmentmyself with the Prime Ministerand obviously with the other Governments in the region. In respect of Iran, as well, it is partly, I would say, as a result of the efforts of this country that we can put before Iran, and in a sense flush out a response, a very sensible and generous offer by the international communityplus the offer by the United States of America, for the first time in 20 years, that it would talk directly to the Iranians. All that has come about in part because of the efforts of this country. My belief is that the only ultimate security in that region is the spread of democracy and liberty. When that happens, we will find that, as I am sure would happen if the Iranians were given a proper free election, there would be perfectly sensible people who would govern their country and who would want to live in peace with their neighbours.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
When it comes to the middle east, does not the international community also need to examine its own conscience somewhat? We rightly required Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon, but then we failed to provide the policing resources to make sure that there was a secure border there. We failed to stand up as an international
community to Israeli land grabs and we failed to make sure that Iran and Syria stopped supplying Hezbollah. We failed to provide an honest broker in the international community. Is it not time that we put the United Nations fairly and squarely in the driving seat, rather than messing around with other organisations, and is it not time to make sure that we get a proper policing force not only into southern Lebanon, but into Gaza?
Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon.
the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,
the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): Returning to energy, what confidence can we have in the ability of political leaders to predict that energy prices will continue to rise for the next 25 years, and to base their policies on that, when exactly the same prediction made 25 years ago in response to the last energy shock proved to be comprehensively wrong?
The Prime Minister: I think that what we can say with certainty is that there is no certainty for the future. However [ Interruption. ] Well, just consider what would happen if the prediction was right, which must at least be a possibility. If we actually had a 50 per cent. increase in demand by 2030, people would look askance at the policy makers todaysince we need to provide for the long termif we failed at least to take the right precautionary measures to make sure that we had a balanced energy supply. That is what I am saying. What is different between the prediction now and that of 30 years ago is that it is now certain that China and India will consume a far larger part of the worlds energy supply. What is not certain is the way in which the world might deal with that. The growth of China and India is driving the current situation, and it will continue to do so.
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