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Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend quickly passed over the question of the PKKs working with the Government of Turkey. He made no mention of the autonomous government of Kurdistan. The people there have had a democratic structure since before the invasion and clearly have a role to play in the solutionand that
includes the Kurdistan Democratic party, which controls the part of the country where the PKK is hiding out.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point. Both the Baghdad Government and the Kurdish regional government in the north are critical partners of the Government of Turkey, along with coalition forces led by the United States, in bringing security to that region.
The middle east needs a stable Iraq, but it also needs security for Israel and a viable state for Palestinians. The stakes in the next year could not be higher, with a choice between the best chance for many years to deliver a two-state solution and the alternative of bloodshed and instability on the basis of failed talks. I will see and hear for myself the current prospects when I visit the region next weekend.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Anyone who has stood in the olive groves of Bethlehem or the town centre of Hebron will have seen the deprivation and poverty of a country under occupation. Apparently, the situation in Gaza is 10 times worse. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that he aims for a two-state solution, not a three-state solution with Gaza and the west bank treated separately?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which we have been addressing in this House since the attempted coup in Gaza in June. It is absolutely clear that as well as ensuring a two-state solution and reaching out to all those committed to peaceful means we must also ensure economic, social and humanitarian development in all parts of Israel and the occupied territories. I can absolutely confirm that, although the initiative lies with President Abbas, and it is for him to lead a reconciliation among the Palestinians, we are clear that we must aim for a two-state solution.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I do not for one moment question the right of Israel to existthat has been my view from the very beginning, in 1948but how can it be said that Israel is genuinely committed to a two-state solution, with a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, when there is not the slightest prospect of Israels giving up so much of the land occupied since 1967? Israel not only refuses to give up that land in negotiations but continues to build settlements. How, therefore, can it be argued that Israel is genuinely committed to the peace process?
I know the passion and long-term commitment that my hon. Friend has brought to the issue. He is absolutely right, and it is our view as well, that the settlement process is not helpful towards the two-state solution that he and I seek. Indeed, I have made clear our views on that to Foreign Minister Livni, too. However, Prime Minister Olmerts speech to the Saban forum eight days ago was an important and even landmark speech in the way that it followed up his previous speeches in the Knesset and discussed the most difficult issue of Jerusalem. His were the words of a politician who realises that it is in Israels vital
security interests to help build a two-state solution with a viable and secure Palestinian partner. Israeli security fears and Palestinian economic suffering are two sides of the same coin and they need to be addressed together.
Michael Connarty: My right hon. Friend has not yet mentioned the apartheid wall that Israel has built. The Antonine wall, the last wall of the Roman empire, ran through Falkirk in my constituency, where ordinary people have formed a friendship link group. They ask how it can possibly be correct for Jayyous, the Palestinian village with which the group is twinned, to be cut off from all its fertile land and for the people to have to travel 20 km to get round the wall. Surely the wall must be an issue that the UK Government should take up with the Israeli Government as something that it is necessary to remove for peace and for two states to be established.
David Miliband: We have indeed taken up the issue, but I say this to my hon. Friend in all seriousness. The wall, he believes, is a cause of problems in the middle east; however, it is also a symptom of problems in the middle east. It is a symptom of Israeli security fears and the fact that the Israeli people were subject to terrible suicide bombing and terrorism. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand when I say that we have to address the causes as well as the symptoms. That means taking seriously Israeli security fears, which are well founded, as we have seen all too tragically.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): When the Foreign Secretary travels to that part of the world shortly, will he try to impress on the Israeli Government the fact that they cannot continue to use the cutting off of energy resources into Gaza as a threat? Also, the choking off of Gaza is beginning to exacerbate an already tricky situation, so will he stress the importance of opening up the border with Gaza again, so that that population can continue to trade?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, which was the subject of a report on the economic road map to peace that the Government published just a month or two ago. Trade is critical to the future there, but it depends on security; if the hon. Gentleman bears with me, I shall come to our contribution to Prime Minister Fayyads plan.
I said that I thought that we had an opportunity now that did not exist before. Condoleezza Rice, the American Secretary of State, has visited the region seven times this year. The Arab states are committed to the Arab peace initiative, while the EU action plan has united European opinion behind the Annapolis meeting and practical support for its aftermath. The UK is determined to play its part, politically, economically and on security, which relates to the point that the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) made. We will help to address Israeli security fears through support for Prime Minister Fayyads security
plan. We will also help to address Palestinian misery, through nearly £32 million in aid, including support for schools, clinics and basic services. We shall work with all those committed to peaceful means to advance a two-state solution.
Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the Foreign Secretary for giving way. Does he not realise that, all the time we are talking, more and more settlements are being established on the west bank, more and more Palestinians cannot move around, and more and more of them are living in poverty? While I absolutely and totally condemn suicide bombers and the killing of any civilians, the reality is that more Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli bombardments, that more people are dying as a result of poverty and a lack of health care, and that weor, if not we, the worldare imprisoning the people of Gaza in a ghastly situation. It is a powder keg waiting to go off unless a serious effort is made to bring about the recognition of a Palestinian state.
David Miliband: I concur with my hon. Friends concluding comment that the only answer to this dangerous situation is a two-state solution, although I have to take issue with him on a number of other points. Gaza was sealed off as a result of the murderous attempted coup by Hamas in June; it is important to be clear about that. I do not think that we should be in the business of weighing up Israeli deaths from suicide bombings with Palestinian misery; they are two sides of the same coin and they need to be addressed together.
The suffering of the Palestinians is used to support a narrative of terrorism and extremism globally, but the front line of terrorism in 2001 was Afghanistan, and it is again the front line today. The situation in Afghanistan is tough and dangerous, but, as President Karzai emphasized during his visit here last month, the efforts of UK, other allied and Afghan military and civilian forces are making a difference. The fighting in Helmand is tough, but Helmand is not a no-go area; in fact, British troops are driving back Taliban forces. The Afghan army is not at full strength, but 40,000 Afghan soldiers have been trained and equipped to fight alongside international forces. Afghanistan is very poor, but last year the legal economy grew by 8 per cent. Afghan health and education services are very basic in some places but, since 2001, the number of functioning health clinics has risen by 60 per cent., 2,000 schools have been built or repaired, and 5 million children are now at schoolmore than a third of them girls. Drug supply in Helmand is rising fast, but 13 provinces are now poppy free.
The next steps are to work with key allies on the big issues: promoting good governance, marginalising extremists, establishing better co-ordination on the borders and among the international forces, developing local civil leadership, and, of course strengthening security. The Prime Minister will say more on this in the House next month.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab):
Lord Malloch-Brown said that the best way to deal with this situation would be to crack down on the three main drug barons. One is a relative of President Karzai and two are
provincial governors. Does the Foreign Secretary really think that there is a practical chance of the Karzai Government cracking down on themselves?
David Miliband: I will say two things to my hon. Friend. First, I wish it were as simple as there being only three people responsible for drug production in Afghanistan. Secondly, President Karzai is the elected leader of the Afghan people, and there are good reasons for understanding the support that he has in the community. There are also good reasons for the international community being absolutely clear about taking action against corruption and in favour of good governance. We must be clear about what we expect from the Afghan Government, but it is up to them to deliver. Some of the actions that President Karzai has taken recently have contributed towards that goal.
Mr. Ellwood: The Foreign Secretary paints a rosy picture about what is happening in Afghanistan. I agree with what he says about health and education, but I am afraid that we are not able to contain what is going on with the Taliban and we are not seeing the necessary co-ordination between the international bodies. I am afraid that the Karzai Government are seen more and more as being corrupt. Unless we, as part of the international body, recognise what is going on in Afghanistan, I would give the country only a couple more years before it implodes. We need to look at this matter seriously. To start with, we need one central co-ordinator to unify the operations being undertaken by the United Nations, the USA, the Department for International Development and the European Union. Until that happens, we shall be on a losing wicket.
David Miliband: As I said, the hon. Gentleman has taken an interest in Afghanistan. Given the litany of problems that we are discussing, I do not think that anything that I have said could be judged to have painted a rosy picture. I referred to international co-ordination, and there is an essential need for the present UN representativewho leaves in Februaryto be replaced by a figure who can not only command respect but rally the different international forces. I believe that he will find a lot to agree with in the work that is being discussed with the Afghan Government. In the end, this process has to be Afghan led and international community supported, rather than the other way round.
Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): The Foreign Secretary mentioned border security. Given the current climate of troubles in Pakistan, what kind of co-operation is there with the Pakistan Government?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important question. It is a 2,600 km border and, as I said last week, 90,000 Pakistani border police are there.
We have seen no change to their deployment in the last eight to 10 days of the Pakistani emergency, but we are obviously watching the situation very carefully.
The operations in Afghanistan, and also in Kosovo, are test cases for the new NATO that we want to see. This April, allies will meet in Bucharest to agree means of further transforming NATO to meet the needs of the 21st century, to improve the way it works with other organisations, to integrate civilian and development efforts with military activity and to build more flexible, deployable and sustainable forces.
The Government will be active in building democracy in the middle east, active in countering terrorism in Afghanistan and active in countering nuclear proliferation, not least in the debates this and next month on Iran. Last June, along with our E3 plus 3 partners, we gave Iran a clear choice: join the international community in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reap the economic and technological benefits, including for civilian nuclear power; or promote proliferation and suffer isolation. Dr. el-Baradei and Dr. Solana will report on Irans progress later this month. Unless those reports are positive, the E3 plus 3 Ministers have agreed to seek a vote on a third UN Security Council sanctions resolution. That strategy is agreed across the international community. Meanwhile the EU is considering further sanctions. This is the right strategy to ensure that Iran can take its place as a respected member of the international community while also defending the integrity of the non-proliferation treaty.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): The Foreign Secretary mentioned Kosovo, but just in passing. May I encourage him to accept that part of his job is not simply to deal with existing crises, but, along with our allies, to anticipate what may be a future crisis? Within the next month, a very serious crisis could arise about the status of Kosovo. We must try to learn the lessons of Bosnia: if the United States and the countries of western Europe do not try to reach a common position in advance and stick to it on both sides of Atlantic, then Kosovo, which is already a very difficult matter, could become incredibly worse.
David Miliband: I completely share the right hon. and learned Gentlemans position. As it happens, that issue comes a page or two later in my speech. I wanted to say that we need to find time for the House to discuss the conclusions of the troika mission, which concludes on 10 December. The Government have been meeting the Unity team from Kosovo, the Serbian Foreign Ministerand the Greek Foreign Minister, who was here last week. I believe that the following points could be shared ground between us.
First, all sides have responsibilities during the current 120-day troika process. Secondly, we must keep open the long-term prospect that EU membership will be open to Serbia and to Kosovo as an incentive for their behaviour. Thirdly, we must continue to maintain international unity on the issue, but not at the price of a Russian veto on any decisions. Fourthly, the EU has major responsibilities in this area, not just in the traditional aspects of foreign policy, but in the
deployment of a European security and defence policy mission into Kosovo. Fifthly, the Ahtisaari plan, in which 14 to 15 months of careful work were invested, provides the right basis if further compromise cannot be found by the troika over the 120-day period.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman might have seen the article I wrote with the French Foreign Minister saying that while additions to the Ahtisaari planAhtisaari plus, if you likeshould be on the table, we cannot compromise on the basic principles that Ahtisaari accepted. I completely understand his point that the matter requires further and detailed discussion in the House. The Minister for Europe and I are keen to have such a debate [Interruption.]
David Miliband: I really must make some progress. I looked up last years debate and I know that the right hon. Member Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) spoke for about 36 minutes. I do not want to overdo my stay here. Although I am delighted to have many interventions on various topics, hon. Members might also want to discuss the European reform treaty when we come to it. I want to save up my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) for the appropriate moment. Does the hon. Member for East Devon have a really pressing point?
Mr. Swire: I am extremely grateful to the Foreign Secretary. Further to the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), when the Foreign Secretary discusses Kosovo, will he ensure that he does not ignore the situation in Republika Srpska and in Bosnia itself, as it is beginning to deteriorate quite seriously?
Mr. MacShane: Very simply, the Foreign Secretary referred to not being faced down by a Russian veto, but will he also give an indication to the House that any veto by one or two smaller European states will be unacceptable, as Kosovos conditional independence under the Ahtisaari plan is surely the only way forward?
David Miliband: There have been encouraging signals from the successive discussions at every Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting that I have attended over the past three or four months. I think that we can build proper European unity.
In all these areas, there is an international coalition of which Britain is a leading member. In three countries marked by repression and destruction, when they should be marked by development and progress, there is also international consensus that needs to convert pressure into action. In Zimbabwe, the suffering of Zimbabweans of all races is the direct result of President Mugabes misrule. The next step is the imminent announcement of the conclusion of the
Southern African Development Communitys mediation role. We will be looking to see how commitments by the ZANU-PF party to level the playing field for next years elections are translated into real improvements in democratic governance on the ground, because it is only through genuinely free and fair elections and an end to political violence that Zimbabwe will be able to start back on the road to recovery.
In respect of Darfur, we have a UN resolution for the African Union-UN peacekeeping mission, but there are problems translating it into troops on the ground. There are peace talks, but not all the parties are engaged, and the comprehensive peace agreement, which ended 20 years of war in southern Sudan, is under pressure. We are working with the UN and allies to overcome impediments to action and to promote security, political reconciliation and economic development.
Finally, in Burma we await this week the report of Ambassador Gambari to the UN Secretary-General. Aung San Suu Kyis first statement to the world in four years will have been encouraging to the whole House. The release of some prisoners to meet her is also welcome, but those are only the first steps towards genuine national reconciliation and democratic rule, and the road to what Aung San Suu Kyi has called meaningful and timebound dialogue is the only basis on which the international community could be convinced that the Burmese regime is serious.
I say in all candour that on all the issues that I have described, the coalition of international support, of which the Government are a leading member, is strengthened by all-party support in the House. That is why I read the shadow Foreign Secretarys party conference speech with interest. I have to say that I thought it was a bit odd that Iraq merited 19 words, Afghanistan 18, Iran four, and Kosovo and the middle east peace process none at all, compared with 640 on the European reform treaty. However, I was willing to be charitable because he used his speech to raise the standard for something that I think he and the shadow Secretary of State for Defence believe init is what the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks called humanitarian intervention. He promised
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