|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
As to whether there could be a nuclear-free zone embracing the whole region, in a sense we are where we are today. I add a second point: in a sense it is the undermining of the NPT over many years and our failure to have an effective global strategy on nuclear non-proliferation which forces us into so many difficult regional situations of this kind. We have no global framework within which to deal with this dangerously accelerating rate of nuclear proliferation around the world.
I now turn to Iraq and to the point raised first by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and then by others later in the debate, about stay in or get out of Iraq, but dont be half into paraphrase what the noble Lord said. He particularly raised the example of whether with 2,500 troops by next spring and if one battle group were otherwise engaged we could defend ourselves at Basra airport. The number has been carefully planned on the military side, and the run- down to coincide with the point at which Iraq will have 35,000 troops of its own, and, therefore, we believe will be a more than adequate partner to us.
This approach has also been confirmed by General Petraeus, among others, as militarily doable. But as the Prime Minister insisted, this will be a matter of military not political judgment. If there has to be any adjustment in time lines, there will be. We will not leave our troops exposed, but we want to move them to this overwatch and training support mission as quickly as we reasonably can.
I hasten to reassure the noble Lord that relations with Washington are in good shape. Although there has been press speculation about the visit of the Foreign Secretary, he was only one of three Cabinet Ministers to have visited in the past few days, along with many senior officials. Plenty of contacts are going on at the moment and we do not need to be concerned, except in the sense that has been properly raised by so many speakers in the course of tonight's debate. As is appropriate between two old and good friends, we have some significant differences of analysis which should be debated, and it is a good
23 Oct 2007 : Column 1068
Before leaving Iraq, I have one clarification of what I said at the beginning. I said that we had committed £90 million to southern Iraq, implying that that had just happened. In fact that is the total of what has been spent and committed since 2003.
Turning to Turkey, Iraq and the PKK, the Prime Minister of Turkey has been here today. I do not yet have a full read-out of his discussions with the Prime Minister, but let me just say, as the Foreign Secretary said in a statement after the PKK attacks, that we condemn them. More particularly, we urge Turkey not to fall into the trap of doing exactly what the PKK would want by making a military incursion into Iraq. At this point, I praise the Governments of Turkey and Iraq, particularly the Government of Turkey, for showing a self-restraint from which many countries could learn.
We are still in the early stages of Martti Ahtisaaris negotiations, and I do not want to comment further than to say that there could be no better negotiator for a task of this kind. I am confident that whatever direction he chooses, it is one with which we will all be comfortable.
I turn in these last minutes to the Middle East proper, to which I do not want to give short shrift. Several speakers raised the issue of a more robust UK policy. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, talked of needing to get to grips with the real issues of refugee return, frontiers, the status of Jerusalem and so forth. Those who have been involved in Middle East peace negotiations seem to be of the view that last time the negotiators arrived at the final summit having postponed those issues, believing that they were too hard to tackle in advance. The consequence was that they remained too hard to tackle at the final negotiation.
Obviously, there is a sense that there are a lot of unresolved issues as we come to Annapolis. Those who see it as just the first meeting may sadly be proved right, but some of those coming to Annapolis hope for a breakthrough to make it a significant event. We all welcome the heavy engagement of the US in the run-up to this meeting. We may wish that it had been possible earlier, but we all agree that it is better late than never and are glad that it is now possible for the US to apply focus to the task.
I come to Hamas and Hezbollah and whether the British Government, or indeed the UN, should deal with them. In the case of Hamas, there have been contacts with both and British diplomats have been heavily engaged with negotiating the release of hostages such as Alan Johnston. They have been heavily involved in humanitarian discussions, as were UN officials under both this and the last secretary-general.
The line has been drawn at formal political contacts at a time when Hamas refuses to recognise a sovereign member-state nation of the United Nations, Israel. However, I think that everyone agrees that while that political recognition must be withheld, in terms of negotiations with Hamas at the formal
23 Oct 2007 : Column 1069
Many of the same arguments apply to Hezbollah. We can abhoras we all dothe tactics of both organisations and the use of violence and terrorism. Ultimately, as has been said, it is indeed British historyand that of the United Nationsthat you often have to talk to people whom you do not like very much.
Let me welcome again the UN report. If we were not robust enough in it in the eyes of the right reverend Prelate and others, let me say that if time allowed me to be robust enough, I would very forcefullyand with, I hope, as much enthusiasm as my Prime Ministerendorse the urgency, the support to a two-state solution, the plea to Israel to stop settlement and barrier activities which make that harder, the plea to the Palestinians to put aside any rocket attacks on Israelis at this time and the plea to both sides to come to the table and negotiate a comprehensive peace. It is British diplomacys objective to support that.
I would only observe that we are not quite the front-line player that we sometimes in this House make the mistake of assuming we are. We are not a member of the quartet. We can do important tasks but others lead on much of this issue and we should and must support them.
Let me close by saying two things. First, I think that sometimes, as in the HSBC ads referred to by the noble Lord, we are guilty of looking at issues from one side only and not as comprehensively from the other sides point of view as we should. That does not mean that we should not do what it takes in Afghanistan to defend its Government. Therefore, I am pleased about those French Mirages. Nevertheless, I accept his broader point that recent years have been terribly damaging to British standing and we have to repair that in all the ways we can. They have done great damage to the concept of liberal intervention. However, the responsibility to protect in a global world, to prevent mass human rights abuses and to ensure that people have freedom
23 Oct 2007 : Column 1070
My second comment is on the right reverend Prelates point that the Westphalian system is dead, but religion is alive and well. I am sorry not to be able to do justice to his argument at the tail end of a debate in which I have already run over time, but let me just say that I concur completely with the idea that no longer is interstate peace and security a matter for state actors alone. We are seeing a dramatic rise of non-state actors, not only of religious communities and their leaders, but also secular communities and their leaders. All of them are shaping our world in a way that traditional foreign policy often has difficulty getting its hands around. Much of that shaping is for good, but sometimes it is for bad. It is enormously important that the right reverend Prelate has reminded us of those non-traditional dimensions to the issues we confront in this Chamber when dealing with areas such as the Middle East.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|