Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-21)|
THURSDAY 12 JUNE 2003
DR D MACSHANE
MP, MR T BARROW,
MR S BUTT
20. The Prime Minister has clearly been very
instrumental in encouraging President Bush to put his hand to
the tiller of the chance to find peace in the Middle East and
we are all extremely grateful for that. In the light of that,
what is the EU's role and what more can be done to help President
Bush and others find that peace? That is my central question.
Could you just say a little bit as well about the fact that the
EU, whose neighbours are the countries of the Middle East, where
we have such direct interest, does not seem to have articulated
that as clearly as we might in all these discussions and developments.
We have a very pertinent role and I think you are going to list
some of the things we currently do, but it is not always well
known that the EU actually does play a very active role in trying
to seek peace in the Middle East.
(Dr MacShane) We take a full part in the Quartet and
with the Quartet partners, the United States, Russia and the UN,
we were involved in drafting the road map. The EU commitment at
a political level to the peace process with the US and other Quartet
members is necessary to keep the pressure on the parties to implement
the road map. As I said earlier, where the EU becomes effective
is when its Member States say the same thing in the same way at
the same time to the same people. We have been saying consistently,
whether Joshka Fischer or Jack Straw or Dominique de Villepin,
that Israel must engage, that we welcome the commitment of the
United States in the creation of a Palestinian state, we welcome
President George W Bush's personal involvement, the way he has
brought Mr Sharon and Abu Mazen together, the way he has been
fearless in speaking out in recent days on aspects of Israeli
policy which are not acceptable, but we also need to bear down
very hard on the terrorists who committed this dreadful atrocity
yesterday with the express intention of derailing any kind of
peace process between Israel and Palestine. No, I do not think
that is right. In Israel people are very conscious of the active
engagement of Prime Minister Blair and Joshka Fischer who has
worked tirelessly. Remember Germany, for reasons we all know,
is a very, very strong supporter of the Israeli state. The European
Union presence is aided considerably in at least getting the Israeli
Government and the Palestinian Prime Minister to talk and to work
with their European partners for their full engagement. I think
we all accept that as far as the Middle East is concerned, the
role of the United States is crucial, but you are right to draw
attention to the extraordinary commitment of the Prime Minister
and I am very pleased that he has really put a lot of British
authority, in his own personal engagement, on the line to support
the idea of moving towards peace in the Middle East.
21. You quite understandably condemned yesterday's
suicide bomb and presumably you would wish also equally to condemn
the alleged Israeli assassination attempt on a prominent Palestinian
earlier which we are told provoked yesterday's reprisal.
(Dr MacShane) Were I an Israeli faced with almost
weekly terrorist attacks by organisations which do not disavow
them, I would consider I had real security reasons to take robust
action, but, yes, I think everybody must acknowledge that it only
serves the people of violence, if violent acts are undertaken
at a time when there is a major effort to move towards peace.
The British Government, as the American Government, does not believe
what happened in terms of Israeli action against that individual
in any way contributed to what we are all trying to do.
Chairman: Are there any other questions? Minister,
thank you very much for coming yet again. I am sorry about the
interruptions, but that is our life. Thank you very much.