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Lord Desai: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the formidable speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hurd, Lord Dahrendorf and Lord Hannay. First, I shall pick up a theme mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay: the completion of the Doha round. He is the first to mention that extremely important point. I say nothing more than that. But what I take from that and from the origins of the European Union—rather than its future—is that we have to base world peace on an expanding and prosperous economy. If we can grasp that principle, that will provide the solution to some of the tougher problems of the day.

My noble friend Lord Skidelsky has already mentioned a plan that we concocted about two years ago. The initial idea was that if France and Germany, after 100 years of warfare, can live together peacefully on the basis of mutual economic co-operation and trade, that insight should be used to pursue peace in the Middle East. I believe that nationalism based on land, as I and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, have said, will not guarantee a solution to the Middle East problem. There just is not enough land to satisfy both sides. That is not just a zero sum game, but in many ways it is a negative sum game.

However, there can be a positive sum game if we can persuade the two sides that, by co-operating economically together, by establishing a kind of economic union, under conditions of a protectorate, there will be a positive incentive for them to come together and to co-operate. The co-operation that exists right now is one-sided and dominated by Israel—the Palestinians have to go to Israel to work. The beginnings of an economic union are needed in that region—Israel, Palestine and Jordan—and later on it can perhaps expand. The idea that we have proposed—it is a preliminary idea, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said—should be considered by her Majesty's Government as an opening bid in any Middle Eastern conference in the future.

An important point is that we have to give incentives to people to stop killing each other and to start trading with each other. I believe that that was a fundamental vision of Adam Smith: that countries can grow prosperous not by conquering each other, but by trading with each other. If we can follow that principle, that will be a great step forward.

I hope that we can pursue a plan of a protectorate. In the past protectorates have worked and they are still being used. I believe that we should grasp that nettle because I do not believe that there is any other route—certainly not a road map, as was announced a while ago by President Bush. We need a new start and I hope that such an idea will provide that.
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I also want to speak about an issue that has not been mentioned so far, and that is the Kashmir dispute. That dispute has festered for 50 years or more. We are only now beginning to see signs of settlement because of two factors. The first is that the two powers concerned are now nuclear powers and they are frightened of their own strength. Secondly, Pakistan has realised that, in a globalised context, it is falling behind India and China in economic terms. If it is to achieve economic progress it has to put Kashmir behind it and concentrate on progress.

There are some very revolutionary proposals on the table. President Musharraf has said he will set aside the demand for a plebiscite, and a number of dialogues at various levels are taking place between India and Pakistan. Currently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is in India. Resolution to that conflict would be a remarkable achievement.

Recently, when I was in India, people at the highest level told me that India is worried about the British Labour Party which, because of its many divisions about Kashmir, may be inspired to interfere in the solution of the problem because of pressures on the Prime Minister from the constituencies. I reassured them that the Labour Party had every faction on the Kashmir issue and that they would cancel each other out, and that Her Majesty's Government had a policy of not interfering in the Kashmir dispute. I should be glad if my noble friend would reiterate that because I believe that the best contribution we have made to the Kashmir problem is not suggesting solutions and letting the two sides get on with the problem which they are very near to solving.

I have to say something about Iraq because for a long time I have been an unrepentant supporter of what has happened in Iraq. I know that people wiser than myself have said that it is a disaster. I disagree. In a war there is destruction, a lot of killing and civilians die, as do soldiers. But on the other side there are terrorists, some of whom were actually in power—the President of Iraq was a terrorist—and some of whom operate on a freelance basis, as the graves discovered in Fallujah have shown.

People thought that what happened in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan was wrong and that problems of ethnic cleansing are not solved by bombing. I hate to disagree with my noble friend Lady Turner, but I believe that when the final balance is drawn, we will say that Bosnia was right, Kosovo was right and Afghanistan was right. One should remember what people used to say about the humanitarian disaster that was taking place in Afghanistan and how no one was in control there. The fact that elections can be held in Afghanistan, despite all the doubts, should be celebrated as a great achievement. The Taliban were incredibly evil and it was good to remove them.

I believe that it was good to remove Saddam Hussein. It may not have been legal; I think it was illegitimate. That is my judgment. I believe that elections will take place in January and I confidently believe that from here on, despite troubles in central Iraq, that country will improve more and more as time goes on. It is regrettable
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that sometimes one cannot make changes without a lot of violence, but unfortunately that is the price of progress.

People should remember that when the attack first started, the expectation was of a long drawn-out war—six to nine months. The time span of war has not altered, but the big fight took place in the beginning and we were lulled into a false idea that that was all there was to it. It has taken a year and a bit and I do not believe that anyone should have expected it to take less than a year and a bit. It is a tough problem to solve.

I am still a humanitarian warmonger. I do not see that there can be any other position in today's world.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf described himself as one who did not toss the old to the side but who valued tradition. Yet it seems to me that he has been the occasion of the institution of a new tradition already this evening—that of the half maiden.

Perhaps I may be permitted to call him in aid of the institution of a further change; that is, that I might be able to continue to refer to him as my noble friend even though he is sitting on other Benches. Like all my colleagues on these Benches, we have enormously valued his sojourn with us and wish to continue that relationship. If by sitting on the Cross Benches he feels that he will have greater freedom to speak more frequently in your Lordships' House, that will be of benefit to the whole House, and something to which I shall look forward.

My noble friend referred to the rather concise nature of the gracious Speech. I suppose we look to the comments of Ministers at the beginning and end of each day of debate to tease out a little some of the thoughts behind elements in the speech. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, described some of the elements. I noted that he referred to many of them as "high priorities", but that he referred to one as being singularly "the most important"—that is, the situation in the Middle East.

I believe that in doing that the Minister was reflecting not only his view or his officers' view, but the view of the Prime Minister. That is why I was not surprised when the Prime Minister travelled to Washington shortly after the re-election of President Bush and raised this as a question of particularly high priority. I think that the Prime Minister has some realisation that many of the other things which are of great importance to him, and, indeed to all of us—such as Iraq, the question of international terrorism and instability in the wider region—are borne upon by the unresolved and deeply bitter situation in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.

I can understand the criticism that is levied at the Prime Minister by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that perhaps there was a degree of impetuosity about his introduction of this element. I think that that criticism might be justified if it were the case that the Prime Minister was bringing yet another initiative, even a
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good initiative. As far as concerns good initiatives, I would certainly commend the one referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Desai, which is the notion of a protectorate on which the MEPIF Group has been working.

Even if it were a good initiative of that kind, I would have to say that I have my reservations. It seems to me that such good ideas simply come and go unless there is a process that can help to carry them through. This week, in the middle of all his other duties and responsibilities, the Prime Minister has yet again set aside time to deal with the long-running conflict within the United Kingdom. Indeed, one might have thought that with his experience of Northern Ireland, that the last thing he would want to do would be to involve himself in another completely intractable ancient feud.

The paradox about these things is that they have a seductiveness about them and once people get involved they do not tend to drop them easily. It is to the Prime Minister's credit, and, indeed, of successive British and Irish governments that they have stuck with that particular issue.

There are some matters arising from the Northern Ireland process, from the process in South Africa and, indeed, from the development of the European Union that we can take note of. All such processes sought to address ancient, deep and violent difficulties, and we should think about them when we are addressing the problem of the Middle East.

One such matter is the necessity to construct a process that has longevity and that can survive. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was referring to that earlier when he said that it had to be able to survive the various ups and downs that were inevitable in any of these processes. That is absolutely true.

However, the question is: how does one construct a process that survives these ups and downs? Certainly one cannot if one insists that they are dependent on governments, because governments come and go. For example, in the context of Israel and the Palestinians, if one insists that one has the parties that for the present form the Israeli Government and those who run the Palestinian Authority, and everyone else is excluded from the process, there will not be stability in the process because every time an election comes forward the process will become a hostage to the election and to the mandate.

That is why, for example, in South Africa the Codessa was created. It brought together all the parties, so that everyone had an investment in what happened. That degree of inclusivity has not yet been created. Indeed, there would be some who would come out in goose pimples if it was suggested that some of those on the Palestinian side, or perhaps even in opposition on the Israeli side should be involved in the process. Yet, I think that is what needs to happen.

Furthermore, I think that inclusivity must not just be within, but that it must be around. The quartet has much to commend it, but I am not convinced that it has enough input from the Arab states, which are absolutely critical. They may not be able to solve the
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problem, but they can do things to undermine it. In fairness, some very helpful and constructive proposals have come from those quarters.

So, in constructing some kind of process, it has to have longevity, inclusivity and those around it have to be involved. The time commitment and the recognition of how much work has to be done is much more substantial than we have seen. From my own experience these processes need individuals, parties and indeed governments who are prepared to be involved in negotiations that go on, not for a few days intensively and then get left to the side, but week after week, month after month and year after year.

There are a number of noble Lords around the House who will reflect on the fact that the process the Prime Minister was involved in this week with the Taoiseach goes back into the early 1980s, almost a quarter of a century. It is not a difficulty, whatever its problems, that remotely resembles that of the Middle East, yet people seem terrified to suggest that it might take a quarter of a century to address the problems of the Middle East. They say, "It is much too urgent. We can't wait for that". We cannot sit around observing yet another series of failed short-term initiatives.

It seems to me that we must put in place a long-term commitment with the resources of political and practical capital that are necessary to inch forward into some kind of resolution which the people can live with, both within Israel and a Palestinian state, feeling secure and at home in their own place, and with those around them who form part of the context. That will not come easy or quickly, but it will not come at all if we do not build a robust process that enables it to happen.

The Prime Minister in approaching the president of the United States and in recognising, as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said, the critical position he can occupy with the presidency of the G8 and of the European Union, has the perfect opportunity to do what I believe he wants to do, which is to act as a link and a bridge between the United States and the European Union. The United States and the European Union together, particularly with the Arab States, can provide a profound opportunity for progress in the Middle East. If they just begin to create a successful process it will be an enormous beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

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