Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-21)



Lord Harrison

  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.

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