TUESDAY 23 APRIL 2002
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
MR BEN BRADSHAW, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, MR CHRISTOPHER PRENTICE, Head, Middle East and North Africa Department, MR EDWARD CHAPLIN, Director, Middle East and North Africa Department, and MR WILLIAM EHRMAN, Director for International Security, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, examined.
(Mr Bradshaw) Mr Chairman, the first step is to defuse the crisis, as you have so rightly described it, on the ground. My analysis of the current situation on the Middle East peace process is we have this dreadful dichotomy between the appalling situation on the ground, as you yourself have already said, and the rather hopeful big picture where we have an unprecedented level of international consensus on what a final settlement will look like, not just Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal, which was unanimously endorsed at the Beirut Summit, but the historic American support for a United Nations Resolutions calling for a two state solution, a vision that unites the Arab world, the West, Russia and I think most reasonable people in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The challenge for us is how we get there, and first and foremost our priority has to be to get humanitarian aid into the towns and cities which are still suffering terribly since the recent incursions, to get the Israeli withdrawal in accordance with the United Nations Resolution 14/02, and a ceasefire also in line with those resolutions, and then the necessary steps which we all know and are very familiar with from Mitchell and Tenet leading to a settlement. One of the reasons we are speaking more openly and candidly about how we see a final settlement looking is we think, as you yourself said in your speech last week to the House, that the incremental approach adopted in the Madrid and Oslo processes was not enough and we need to articulate more than ever the solution as we see it, as indeed does the whole international community.
(Mr Bradshaw) We have said we would be supportive of a wider conference. There are still a great many question marks as to where that conference would be, who would be involved, what its aims would be, who would be invited and so forth. The examples you quoted in your introduction are elements that have been pioneered by Britain, if you like, that the Prime Minister put in the public domain in Crawford in his recent speech at his bilateral with President Bush which we feel can contribute to a process. I do not think they are the solution, there are going to be a number of elements which are required before we get to a conference.
(Mr Bradshaw) There are none specifically planned. We had last weekend Security Council Resolution 14/05, which very much came out of Britain's initiative derived from our concern specifically about the situation and events in Jenin following the visit not just by the humanitarian organisations but also our Defence Attaché in Tel Aviv. It was as a result of a British initiative we got that resolution which endorsed a United Nations fact-finding mission to Jenin. But I am not aware of any immediate further UN Security Council proposals, and I see my officials shaking their heads as well endorsing that.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) No, we have not any strong indication but at the same time they have not rejected them out of hand.
(Mr Bradshaw) I think I am right in saying that we have already said we would be willing to do anything we felt was helpful if there was enough international consensus to do it. That would include hosting a conference. In terms of sending an emissary, the same applies. If we made a judgment that the time was right and we could do something no one else had managed to do, we would do so. But at the moment most of our hopes and efforts are still invested in the diplomatic efforts of Colin Powell and his deputy, Bill Burns, who is still in the region, and the prospect Colin Powell will return, because I think everybody recognises that without serious and sustained American engagement in the Middle East we are not going to get the necessary steps we would all like to see.
(Mr Bradshaw) I would certainly be prepared to take your proposal away and give it further consideration, Sir Patrick.
Sir Patrick Cormack: Thank you.
(Mr Bradshaw) I would certainly agree with the main thrust of your point, that a great deal of investment is going to be needed in a future Palestinian state. One of the tragedies of the events of the last few weeks is that tens of millions of pounds-worth of damage has been done to the Palestinian Authority infrastructure, much of it funded originally by the European Union, which, as members I am sure know, is the major single contributor and has been to the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo and Madrid Accords. You are right to say that poverty has got significantly worse in the Palestinian Authority over the last 18 months, and that a programme of reconstruction and supporting good governance and infrastructure investment is going to be absolutely essential, but I would add this caveat, the European Union is not about to throw a lot of money into the Palestinian Authority unless we can be absolutely sure it is not going to be destroyed again.
(Mr Bradshaw) Absolutely.
(Mr Bradshaw) Absolutely. There is a meeting of the international community in Oslo tomorrow over two days discussing what immediate humanitarian relief can be given to the Palestinian Authority areas. You are absolutely right, after a political settlement there is going to be the need for a massive amount of investment in the new Palestinian state. You were also right to point out, and the Government has on many occasions, that the war against terrorism, which your Chairman referred to earlier, is not just about military solutions, it is also about tackling injustices and poverty and those things which breed fanaticism which feeds terrorism.
(Mr Bradshaw) Any of you who have visited the occupied territories will be well aware of the very good work the British Government already does, both bilaterally through the British Council and also through the European Union in a number of the areas you have already mentioned. I think we would have to wait and see, to be perfectly honest, what the essential need was when we get, as I hope we do, to the formation of a Palestinian state. I do not think there is any doubt that just as in the past Britain has been one of the major, if not the major, contributors within the European Union - if you combine the money given to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, which deals with all the Palestinian refugees in a number of countries in the region - we would continue with that level of commitment. Indeed, we are increasing it at the moment, we are increasing both our contribution to UNRWA and to the Palestinian Authority.
(Mr Prentice) DFID have for many years been running a large programme on institution building in the Palestinian Authority, and we have run programmes also to help their Negotiation Affairs Department to make them professional in the preparation for the peace negotiations, and those programmes I know will be continued and indeed strengthened in the next period. On an earlier point, the Foreign Secretary said in his speech in the debate that the international community would need to set up a large trust fund in order to support the implementation of any final status settlement, and this covers a great range of issues which will be needed then.
(Mr Bradshaw) I do not think it was a failure and I do not think it is true to say he left the region much worse than when he arrived. If you cast your mind back to the situation when he arrived, it was a lot worse than it is now. Although I think it is true to say Colin Powell's visit did not achieve everything that we all hoped it would, it achieved a lot more than your question suggested in that most fair-minded observers accept that worse things would have happened had he not gone. If you remember, before he arrived Israel was talking quite openly of its operation in the occupied territories lasting months, and the signs are that the withdrawal is happening, albeit not as quickly as the international community demands. As I said, possible worse and more calamitous action has been avoided. The most important thing to remember is that a year ago the United States was not engaged in the Middle East peace process to the extent that it is now. President Bush came into office following President Clinton who had expended a great deal of time and energy on this issue ultimately without the success we had all hoped for. That has all changed now. It has changed as a result of 11 September, it has changed as a result of a number of things, but, most importantly, President Bush's statement Thursday fortnight ago marked I think a crossing of the rubicon in terms of American engagement, and I think America now understands there must be a political process if we are to get the necessary steps towards a political solution, and I think we should all welcome that. As I said, Colin Powell has indicated he will go back.
(Mr Bradshaw) It may be helpful to members if I say in the last half hour we have heard the Israelis and the Palestinians are now talking about a solution to the stand-off in Bethlehem, which is a positive sign. I am not really in a position to judge whether the Israelis are listening more or less to the Americans than they have traditionally, I think those are questions which you would better ask the Israelis, but there are certainly signs American influence is important, and I have already suggested a number of ways in which Colin Powell's visit made a difference. I think the fact that the Israelis agreed to co-operate with the fact-finding mission as well was partly a result of the fact America had expressed its clear support in a United Nations Resolution for that. We obviously hope Israel takes notice of what its friends and particularly its most powerful friend and ally says to it, but I think to completely write off the ability of America to influence what the Israeli Government does at this stage would be wrong.
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes, I think we are. Although I think sometimes British influence in the world and with the United States can be exaggerated, I think we do have a certain amount of influence, and of course we use it. I do not think it is accidental, for example, that back in the autumn, after 11 September, our Prime Minister embarked on a whirl-wind diplomatic tour of the Middle East, he then went to the United States and, shortly after that, President Bush made his historic speech to the United Nations, which was historic, when became the first American President to use the term "Palestine". It is all very well people wondering or criticising whether the United States is really engaged, the fact is the United States is engaged, and, not only that, the United States Government under this President has used unprecedented language, has supported an unprecedented United Nations Resolution, the most recent resolution a couple of months ago, calling for a two-state solution; the first time that was explicitly stated clearly in a unanimous Security Council Resolution supported by the United States. I think the objective observer would see all of this and think that they are saying things they have not said before, these are going to be very difficult to go back on, how you get there is another matter, but I am absolutely satisfied that the commitment is there and that America realises that it is in her interests that she should be engaged and that we should at long last get a solution to this terrible problem.
(Mr Bradshaw) I hope Mr Mackinlay will forgive me if I forget part of that question, please come back if I do. To attempt to answer the first bit, we are not satisfied with the responses which Israel has given us to the various representations we have made in recent weeks, whether on access for humanitarian organisations, for the media, for our own diplomatic staff - for quite a long period of time there were British citizens trapped in Bethlehem and Ramallah, and although there is evidence that some representations made some difference, it is often quite difficult to actually quantify whether they have. I think certainly the frustration felt by our diplomats on the ground was made very clear to me and to the Foreign Secretary at the time and has been since. So, no, we are extremely unhappy about the way Israel has responded to our representations. On the second question about possible war crimes in Jenin and consistency with the Balkans, all I can say on this is that our Defence Attaché's official report, which I quoted in the debate in Parliament last week, said quite clearly that he had discovered strong evidence of, I think the words were, "excessive and disproportionate force" having been used in Jenin. It was a direct result of those concerns that the Foreign Secretary took this issue up and managed to get this unanimous United Nations Resolution endorsing a fact-finding mission. Now it will be up to the fact-finding mission to establish the facts, that is why they have been appointed, and the facts are of course bitterly disputed by the Israeli side. I think it makes sense and it was a very sensible thing to do given the situation, with one side saying there had been a terrible massacre and the other side saying this had all been part of the necessary security operation, that the facts should be established. I think the process will then flow from that. In comparison with what happened in the former Yugoslavia, Mr Mackinlay will recall that when we were in Opposition there were a lot of things going on and there was very little response, and it sometimes takes a while for the international community to take real cognizance of the situation. The definitions of war crimes are quite clear but I think it will be up to the United Nations fact-finding mission to determine what they think happened, and it is then under international law the responsibility of, in this case, Israel to properly investigate and to take action against any people who might have committed such war crimes. Israel, as a democracy which prides itself on the rule of law, would be expected to do that.
(Mr Bradshaw) The monitoring body we are talking about is a body of people who I believe would not be armed forces, who would simply monitor a ceasefire. This is not a new suggestion, although I think it was the first time we suggested it in public when the Prime Minister was in Crawford. One of the problems we have had since the outbreak of the Intifada is the claim and counter-claim from each side about what is going on in the security field, who is doing what, who is under arrest. There are constant claims by the Israelis that people they think should be in prison and the Palestinian Authority say are in prison are then in fact discovered not to have been in custody, and this has contributed, we believe, hugely to the level of distrust between the two sides. So we feel that a monitoring body could make a very constructive contribution to rebuilding trust, and actually ascertaining what the security situation is on the ground.
(Mr Prentice) No. I think there is evidence of continued reluctance on the part of the Israeli Government about what they would see as the internationalisation of this conflict and dispute.
(Mr Bradshaw) We think Mr Arafat could have delivered more in the past which he did not deliver. However, the current situation of him holed-up in a couple of rooms in Ramallah does not make it exactly easy for him to deliver very much. We think his control of the Palestinian Authority is pretty comprehensive.
(Mr Bradshaw) One of the paradoxes of the current situation is that the Israeli actions have made President Arafat more popular than he has been for a very long time and his support among the Palestinian people is probably at a higher level now than for some years.
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes. He is now in a better position to deliver politically. The problem in the past, and this has frustrated the Israeli side, is that they felt, and I think sometimes rightly, he could have delivered more on security and done more to stop the violence. However, we have never accepted this argument that it is possible for President Arafat to stop every single suicide bombing or every single action by one of the rejectionist groups; that is simply not possible for him. But we do feel strongly that he has not had a consistently good record of delivering and of leadership, and that has been part of the problem. We could spend a lot of time wishing we did not have the leaders we currently have on both sides, but I do not think that is going to get us very far, we have to deal with the people we have got, and we know who they are, and not give up hope on them.
(Mr Bradshaw) May I say, the United States is certainly thinking very carefully and realistically about the level to which it is going to have to help the Palestinians, not just on humanitarian aid but on reconstruction. It is not true to say that the money is not there. I think the Foreign Secretary made this quite clear in his speech last week that we in the European Union, indeed the whole international community, are ready with humanitarian aid. That is not the problem. The problem is getting access.
(Mr Bradshaw) There is a slight difference between the immediate humanitarian relief where people are starving, and money for reconstruction in the longer term after a political settlement. What we have said is that we are not prepared, and I think rightly - and we have said this quite clearly to the Israelis - to spend tens of millions of pounds again on buildings and infrastructure and good governance and things to help the Palestinian Authority rebuild itself, only to see that wrecked. As to your question about reparation, the European Union has made absolutely clear that it reserves the right to claim compensation from the Israelis for the damage done to EU-funded projects in the last few months.
(Mr Bradshaw) I think, with respect, Mr Chairman, what America does with its money is up to America. I am not aware of any specific discussions.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am not aware of any discussions between Britain and America as to how America should spend its aid budget. There have not been any. Christopher Prentice wants to add something here.
(Mr Prentice) One of the consistent demands made of Israel in the last period has been that they should resume payment of the customs revenues which are owed to the Palestinian Authority, which they have been withholding now for 18 months or more - perhaps actually longer than that. This amounts now to a very large sum which is owed by Israel under its international agreement, under the Paris Protocol.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Prentice) That would be one way in which Israel could immediately contribute to the restoration of the Palestinian Authority's viability.
(Mr Prentice) Half a billion.
(Mr Bradshaw) Half a billion dollars.
(Mr Prentice) Yes.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Bradshaw) I think we would say it was highly desirable rather than an essential prerequisite.
(Mr Bradshaw) As I said earlier in my remarks to your Chairman, I think that there is, amidst the destruction and the misery on the ground, this unprecedented level of international consensus which could - could - if we had a little bit of courage and leadership shown by both sides in the region itself, lead to a rapid change. I will give you one example. The mood, I believe, in the Palestinian Authority would change very, very quickly if ordinary Palestinians felt that Israel, under its current Prime Minister, was serious about a just political solution. I really do believe that. If you ask ordinary Palestinians, many of whom are intelligent, educated people, it is quite shocking some of the things they say about how they feel about the actions of suicide bombers, for example. If you then go on to ask them, if you study the opinion research that has been done, if there were political discussions going on that they felt would lead to a political solution, the mood could change very quickly. I think exactly the same could be said about public opinion in Israel. So I think the situation could change very quickly for the better, and of course it would be immensely helpful in the prosecution of the campaign against terrorism further afield if there were not the current situation in the Middle East, but I do not think one should be made conditional on the other. If you face threats that are very real in other parts of the world, you have to deal with them irrespective of whether you have resolution of a conflict somewhere else.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) No, absolutely, and of course those consequences would be taken into account.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Bradshaw) It is not a question of what we believe, Mr Chairman. Those settlements are illegal under international law. That is absolutely clear, and the issue of settlements would have to be dealt with in any final settlement. We hope very much that the agreements that were nearly reached at Taba could be built upon. There may well be the option of land swaps and the retention of some of the settlements in return for existing Israeli green-line land passing into a new Palestinian State, but the principle of the settlements has to be resolved, because they are, and have been, one of the most serious obstacles to peace.
(Mr Bradshaw) It is not up to us, with respect, to impose a settlement on the two sides.
(Mr Bradshaw) Our policy is that the settlements are illegal, and what happens to them would depend on what the two sides agree in any settlement. We do not want to dictate in advance, and I do not think it would be helpful for us to dictate in advance, the parameters of any agreement that the Palestinian and Israeli sides might wish to enter into. We do not think that is helpful. As I have clearly stated, though, our view of the settlements is that they are illegal under international law, and it is highly probable, in my view, that the vast majority of them would have to go.
(Mr Bradshaw) The problem there, Sir John, is that the International Criminal Court does not actually come into being until July, and it is not retrospective, so the question you are asking I am afraid is hypothetical. I think what we would say is that we condemn all illegal and criminal acts.
(Mr Bradshaw) They may well be, but so far Israel has not ratified the International Criminal Court, so I think we may face some potential difficulties there.
(Mr Bradshaw) Those, Mr Chairman, are really questions that you need to direct to the American Administration.
(Mr Bradshaw) Our view at the moment, as I think I have stated, is that we need to be concentrating all our efforts on trying to find a diplomatic solution, but we have a coincidence of factors which I believe give us an opportunity at the moment, and I am not convinced at this stage that the sorts of measures that you appear to be advocating by your question would be necessarily helpful in achieving what we want to achieve, which is actually a difference in the situation on the ground, a withdrawal, a ceasefire and return to meaningful talks.
(Mr Bradshaw) It is a big lever, Mr Olner, you are absolutely right. That is why I have said previously that American engagement in the Middle East peace process is absolutely vital. It would also be correct to observe that America has used its economic levers in the past to encourage Israel to make moves that it has regarded as being desirable. Really you could question as to when America feels that it should or could use those levers; they are a matter for the United States and not for the British Government.
(Mr Bradshaw) It could change, but I would suggest to you that the signs from the United States do not suggest that that is about to happen. On the contrary, all the opinion polls across the Atlantic suggest overwhelming support not just for the Sharon Government's policies but also for American policy in the region. I am not aware of any signs that that is about to change dramatically.
(Mr Bradshaw) No. As I have already said, we have not received a satisfactory explanation about that or about very many other things that we have been concerned about.
(Mr Bradshaw) Of course.
(Mr Bradshaw) Of course.
(Mr Bradshaw) I would not say that. Sometimes we are provided with explanations, but we do not find them particularly convincing.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes, I am, and, as I said earlier, we make those views plain to the United States at every opportunity. It is not always the most effective way of conducting diplomacy to make those views plain in public, but of course we express our views forcefully to the United States. In the end, though, the United States will take its decisions based on what it sees as its own national interest.
(Mr Bradshaw) Again, I am afraid I am going to repeat a lot of what I said in my answer to Sir John on settlements. The eventual status of Jerusalem is a question for final-status agreement, but our official position is that western Jerusalem is de facto Israeli territory and that east Jerusalem is occupied territory, and that we would expect any final settlement to build on the agreements that were already on the verge of being made at Camp David and Taba, that in effect mean that east Jerusalem would become the capital of a future Palestinian State. It is inconceivable to me that you could have a viable Palestinian State or that the Palestinian or indeed the Arab world would settle for anything less.
(Mr Bradshaw) No, I am not aware of those specific issues being raised, but I have not been present at all the conversations where they might have been. What I will repeat, as I said earlier, is that of course we discuss the Middle East situation and the importance of American engagement, and I think that is the single most important thing. If, Chairman, you will allow me, I have been passed a note by which, if I may, I would like to clarify the answer that I gave on Sir John's question about potential future ICC involvement in violent events in the region. The ICC, one must remember, only gets involved where states are unwilling or unable to do other work themselves, and as I said earlier, in the case of Israel, being a country that has respect for the rule of law, we would expect it to carry out its own investigations and to take action against those people who had been shown to have broken the law, and similarly for any future Palestinian State.
Chairman: Sir John, do you want to come back?
Sir John Stanley: No, thank you.
(Mr Bradshaw) I think what is very important in what you have just said is that we recognise the public mood in Israel and what has caused that public mood, and of course we support Israel's right to security, but we do not happen to believe that the way the Israeli government and the IDF recently has gone about that will provide Israelis with security. All the evidence of the last 18 months is that the strategy, if you can call it that, adopted by the Israeli government has done exactly the opposite and more Israelis have died in the last 18 months than, I think, in the whole history since the foundation of the State of Israel. So for a government that was elected to provide security to its people, and peace, it has not been terribly successful, but of course we understand the levels of frustration among the Israeli public and, indeed, the political class. We just seek to persuade them that the way that the government is currently going about things is not likely to succeed. We should not forget - and you are absolutely right to have reminded us of that - that there are violent, evil, rejectionist groups operating from the Palestinian Territories, who are not interested in a peace settlement with Israel, who do not recognise Israel's right to exist, and consistently in the last 18 months, just at a time when there has been a period of quiet, when the international community could have put real pressure on both sides to come back, through the Mitchell and Tenet, to meaningful talks, have exploded a suicide bomb. It is not coincidental. The timings of those attacks have not been coincidental. So I think you are absolutely right in reminding the Committee of the reasons for the current mood in Israel, but that does not mean to say that we have to endorse the actions that the Israeli military have taken in recent weeks.
(Mr Bradshaw) My understanding - and I will ask Christopher to come in on the detail of this - is that there is no evidence to link President Arafat with any of the actions, including the one that you referred to. I do not know, Christopher, whether you want to add anything.
(Mr Prentice) On the Al-Aqsa Brigades, these are individuals on the very extreme fringe, who are secular rather than religious in their motivation, who claim these appalling suicide bombings in the name of Al-Aqsa Brigades; they claim a connection to Fatah which is a very broad organisation, but they are not under Arafat's direct control, authority, and particularly when, by the time of this Passover bombing, he was himself under virtual siege and house arrest in his headquarters, held incommunicado. There is a paradox that over months the Israeli reactions to these events have been targeted against those very security apparatuses close to President Arafat which they are separately asking and requiring should take action against the extremist groups. So they are undercutting his ability to act, at the same time as they are insisting that he act.
(Mr Prentice) Marwan Barghouti is connected with the Fatah-Tanzim who are a street movement arising out of the Intifada. That is not identical to the Al-Aqsa Brigades.
(Mr Prentice) I cannot say there is none, but they are not identical. Marwan Barghouti is a semi-political figure who has openly pledged himself to a future settlement with Israel on the basis essentially of the Arab peace plan; if they fully withdraw, then he is prepared to attempt Israel's future existence. He has written public articles in that sense, and also predicting that he would at some stage become a martyr, be assassinated, as he said. He was expecting that because, as he put it, he was somebody who was very tough in defence of Palestinian interests and open to peace, but uncompromising. He did not expect to survive. I think it has been true that some Israelis have seen Marwan Barghouti at other times as a potential person with whom they could do business in the future as an alternative leader who might emerge. They have changed their view on him now apparently, but there have been other leaders who have been into Israeli jails and out of Israeli jails, as he has himself. He speaks fluent Hebrew. For many years I think the Israelis considered him a replacement for Arafat, and perhaps he will emerge again.
(Mr Bradshaw) No evidence that we have seen, that is convincing.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Bradshaw) We do not, no, but it is a prospect that is one of those that we consider when we try to work out exactly what his strategy might be.
(Mr Bradshaw) Let me put it like this, Sir John. I think that if that were the case, if that were the strategy, we would say that strategy was cataclysmic, not just for Palestinians but also for Israel. It is in Israel's interest that there is a viable Palestinian State, and any idea that the solution to the current situation is the one that you fear is illusory, and we do hope that it is not being seriously considered by anyone, least of all the prime minister of Israel.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) Indeed we have.
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes, and I think I said that in answer to an earlier question.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am not in a position to answer that with total accuracy, Mr Chairman, so I might ask Christopher to come in here.
(Mr Prentice) The direct budgetary assistance which the European Union has provided was threatened, particularly since Israel withdrew the tax revenues which it owed. When Israel stopped payment of the tax revenues that it formally owed to the Palestinian Authority, it threatened the whole budgetary process, and the European Union stepped in, as did some of the Arab League countries, to provide emergency budgetary assistance. That budgetary assistance was conditional on transparency of the process, and the IMF was brought in to certify the proper uses of that and the existence of a rational emergency budget to reflect priority expenditures. There were also European conditions attached to good governance aspects. At an earlier stage when this seemed possible - which it does not now of course - we were very keen to see the consolidation of various budget headings, the introduction of reforms to the judiciary, the promulgation of a constitution and other reforms which we saw as necessary stepping stones towards building up viable institutions in the Palestinian Authority. We were using the financial assistance the EU was providing, as a means of securing those necessary and desirable reforms.
(Mr Bradshaw) There is, Mr Chairman, and we have expressed that concern regularly, although I have to say that not the most recent evidence, which I have not seen, but certainly up until about three months ago there was evidence that some of the incitement and the language that we had been worried about in the Palestinian media had reduced. It is a point that we make repeatedly to the Palestinian Authority - and this is not just a problem within the Palestinian Authority, it is also a grievance that Israel rightly raises with us about the language that you get in countries like Egypt - that the language can be extremely virulent, anti-semitic, violent and not conducive to giving confidence to those people in Israel who want to make peace and who agree with the principle of land for peace. You are right in the suggestion of your question that it is an obstacle to building up confidence within Israel.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am afraid I am not aware of the detail of maps in Palestinian textbooks. I do not know whether Christopher is.
(Mr Prentice) I cannot say there are not any such maps, but the EU has had a project on reform of the Palestinian textbooks, which has made possible the issuing and the gradual distribution of new texts which are far more acceptable. The Palestinian Authority have co-operated in this, and I think there is an improving picture.
Andrew Mackinlay: I do not think we need to get hung up too much on maps, Chairman. No doubt in certain places in Germany there is Wroclaw shown as Breslau. I do take your point, though.
Mr Hamilton: A slightly different one.
(Mr Bradshaw) The EU has, I think, been playing a very important role in quite difficult circumstances, and that includes the role played by Mr Maratinos and Mr Solana. As to what they are doing at the moment, I am afraid at this very moment I cannot tell you, Mr Chairman. I do not know whether any of my officials can.
Chairman: Minister, we have had a fair innings on the Israel/Palestine issue. Fundamental to our inquiry into the war against terrorism is the whole question of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, where we go as an international community in dealing with the problem of Saddam Hussein. Mr Olner has a few points on this.
(Mr Bradshaw) No. I think the whole international community is agreed - and this is outlined quite clearly in successive United Nations resolutions - that there are obligations on Iraq that Iraq is not in compliance with. I think it would be a mistake to think that the threat posed by Iraq is just going to go away. It is not. The British Government's position is quite clear on this. Saddam needs to comply fully with the demands of the United Nations, not just to allow weapons inspectors back in unconditionally, but so that they can ensure that the weapons of mass destruction programme has been dismantled. This is the agreement that he made at the end of the Gulf War, and he is in contravention of that.
(Mr Bradshaw) I think what would be right - and I think this is the inference of your question - is that the current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine makes any idea of military action against Iraq politically in the region a great deal more difficult, and I think that is simply recognising reality. The appetite in many Arab countries whose leaders do not have a lot of time for Saddam Hussein and in private, if not in public, would dearly love to see the back of him, for military action against Iraq is diminished by the situation in the Middle East. I think that is a political fact.
(Mr Bradshaw) The United Kingdom Government voted along with all the other EU members of the committee ----
(Mr Bradshaw) Because we share the belief of all the other European Union members who voted the same way and the vast majority of members of the committee who also voted the same way that there were serious management problems and that Mr Bustani was not the best candidate to sort those out.
(Mr Bradshaw) I would rather not go into the details because I am not sure whether I am covered by parliamentary privilege.
(Mr Bradshaw) Suffice to say that the management of Mr Bustani left something to be desired, the consequence of which was he had lost the confidence of the vast majority of the members. What we are concerned about is that this body is an effective body. We had the view which was shared, as I said, by the vast majority, I think only one per cent of the members voted against this.
(Mr Bradshaw) Yes, we have made our position quite clear about what we thought of his stewardship.
(Mr Bradshaw) I have already indicated that we were unhappy with his management. I am slightly nervous about going into detail in case he might take me to court. I will take the advice of the Chairman as to whether he would accept a letter written in confidence from me giving more detail about the exact reasons why we were unhappy with his management style.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) I think, Chairman, if you do not mind, I would rather leave it that we shared the concerns of the vast majority of the other members, including the whole of the rest of the European Union who voted with us on this, that he had lost the confidence of the body because of management deficiencies. I really do not want to say any more than that.
Andrew Mackinlay: So you will do us a letter, will you?
(Mr Bradshaw) I will be very happy to do that.
Andrew Mackinlay: For the record, I am afraid we might return to it, might we not, Chairman? Forget about the substance for the moment, it is a parliamentary principle that we should have the right to ask.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am happy to write along those lines, Chairman.
Chairman: If you could aim to write an open letter to the Committee.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) I have already made it clear, Chairman, that these were not concerns that were shared just by the Americans, they were shared by many other countries. The vast majority of countries at last night's vote voted for Mr Bustani's removal. I would suggest that it is simply implausible that any one country can nobble so many other countries at once and persuade them to do something which is totally ----
(Mr Bradshaw) I will write to you on the detail. To be perfectly honest, I am not aware of all the details of exactly what he is supposed to have done wrong.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am happy to write to you in confidence along those lines but what I do not want to do is to drag someone's reputation out in public in this way.
Chairman: I am sure there is much that can be said in open that the Committee can use. If there are one or two confidential matters of the sort touched on by Sir Patrick, let those be ----
Andrew Mackinlay: Chairman, I want to make myself clear. You were not here on Sierra Leone. When we started to ask difficult questions and scratched the surface people did not want to respond. I do not want to labour this point this afternoon but I think the Minister or the Director for International Security could and should answer this. I guess I have not got the majority of the Committee with me this afternoon pressing for this - that is a question, not a statement - but I think if the Minister writes we make it clear that we reserve the right to come back.
Chairman: Of course.
Andrew Mackinlay: I do not think necessarily that letter---- I am reluctant to commit myself that that letter somehow locks me into not pursuing it further.
Chairman: I do not think any letter is going to lock you into that.
Mr Chidgey: I accept everything the Minister says on this but there is a point of precedent being raised where difficult questions are posed. Surely this Committee would not wish Ministers to respond by a letter that is in confidence, because that is not the purpose of this Committee.
Andrew Mackinlay: I have got a suggestion for the Committee.
Mr Olner: I have to say, Chairman, I thought we were taking evidence.
Andrew Mackinlay: Chairman, let the Minister consult on this and my questions stand on the table and he can come back either physically or in an open letter. If he does not then I think it is a matter for us to discuss in business because I want answers to that.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am perfectly happy to do that, Chairman. Your Members might feel slightly less frustrated if I added that I think the main areas of our concern were financial management and staff morale.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Bradshaw) I am sure he did, Chairman, but of course the answer to the question depends on the circumstances at the time.
(Mr Bradshaw) Let me emphasise, and I think it is very important to do this, that there are no immediate plans for military action against Iraq, they are not imminent and they are certainly not inevitable. But there are instances, and the Committee will be aware of them---- I think you have asked for a memorandum of understanding on this in advance of your meeting on Thursday to discuss British-American relations and that memorandum is on its way to you today, so you will have it by the end of the day, outlining exactly what our legal view is in response to the questions that you have just posed. If I could perhaps precis the answer to it. Yes, of course there are instances when military action is justified without a new UN Resolution. There are others when a UN Resolution is if not necessary then certainly preferable. There is also a view regarding Iraq, which you may well be aware of because it is one that I enunciated in an adjournment debate on this subject, that Iraq being in breach of the cease-fire agreement that it reached after the Gulf War means that cease-fire agreement is no longer in force. I think the important thing to stress is that all of our efforts at the moment are going into persuading Iraq to allow the UN weapons inspectors back in to do the work that the international community requires that they do.
(Mr Bradshaw) It would depend on the circumstances at the time if and when any decision on military action was going to be made. What the British Government has made absolutely clear time and time again is that we always take military action within international law.
(Mr Bradshaw) No.
(Mr Bradshaw) In response to your specific question about a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda the answer is no.
(Mr Bradshaw) Not at the moment, no.
(Mr Bradshaw) I have already mentioned in answer to Sir John Stanley on the basis on which military action could be justified but I have also stressed that it would depend on the circumstances at the time. All of these questions, if you will forgive me, Chairman, at the moment are hypothetical because our overriding aim is to get the weapons inspectors back in to avoid any suggestion that military action will happen.
(Mr Bradshaw) What we are demanding is full compliance with the UN Resolutions.
(Mr Bradshaw) It is not just about letting weapons inspectors back in, that is a popular misconception, it is about allowing the weapons inspectors to do their job properly, which is dismantling in a verifiable way Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme. This was a commitment that Saddam Hussein entered into at the end of the Gulf War, it is something he consistently tried to avoid doing when the weapons inspectors were in. It is really very simple, the decision will be his, but all the international community is demanding through the United Nations is full compliance with those resolutions.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) I have already indicated in an answer I gave to Mr Olner earlier that I think there is general acceptance that the political facts are that were progress being made on the Middle East peace process in political terms, particularly in the region, it would be much easier to take action against Iraq but it would be a mistake if the Committee were to assume that these issues have to be linked. The fact is that if we face a real threat from Iraq, which we do, and I think the Committee accepts that, the evidence is all there in the annual reports from the United Nations' inspectors when they were there, and we know that since they left matters have got even worse, taking into account Saddam Hussein's record as being unique in the world as having used these weapons, and his intentions, I think it would be a mistake to assume that you have to solve the Middle East peace process before you can take action against Iraq. Nobody is going to allow themselves to have their hands tied in that way. That does not mean to say that we do not need to double and redouble our efforts to try to find a solution in the Middle East. There is no way, as some people have suggested, that somehow this new interest in finding a solution to the Middle East peace process is some ulterior motive to make an attack against Iraqis.
(Mr Bradshaw) It depends on what your assessment is at the time of the threat they pose and the intentions that they have.
(Mr Bradshaw) We made quite clear at the time of that speech that we did not share American analysis of the best way forward with Iran. The British policy and the European Union policy is one of critical engagement. We have a different analysis of how we encourage change for the good in Iran and, as on a number of other areas, where we disagree with our American friends we are not reluctant to say so.
(Mr Bradshaw) Mr Olner, I have said it very loudly in every single interview I have given on the subject since that speech, not least on numerous Arab and Muslim tv stations and newspaper interviews.
(Mr Bradshaw) What we do share is the serious concerns that the Americans have on Iranian support for rejectionist groups in the Middle East and for the Iranian programme of weapons of mass destruction. Those are areas where we share American concerns, we just come to a different view as to how best to move Iran in the right direction.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Bradshaw) It has not been shown to the US Government, Chairman, and I would not want to pre-empt any reaction that the US might have if we were to show it to them.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am afraid I cannot speak on behalf of the American Government. All I would say, Chairman, is that in all of the recent instances that we have referred to in our session today, whether Afghanistan or Kosovo or, indeed, the Gulf War, America has taken military action in accordance with international law.
(Mr Bradshaw) There has not been a sustained dialogue on what would be a hypothetical situation.
(Mr Bradshaw) As is often the case with different countries there are not exact replicas of how we do things in this country but I guess that my opposite number would be Bill Burns, who is a Deputy to Colin Powell, who is also responsible for the Middle East who happens to be there at the moment. Yes, we do talk regularly. He passes through London on a regular basis and he always drops into the office and we try to catch up on things. We also speak on the telephone.
(Mr Bradshaw) Chairman, I get rather puzzled when I am asked this question about evidence. I did have a great big mountain of it here just a second ago but it was the same pile that the Foreign Secretary waved around in the debate last week.
(Mr Bradshaw) It is, it is actually in the library of the House.
Andrew Mackinlay: I remember I spoke sotto voce to the Foreign Secretary when he was in the Chamber ----
Sir Patrick Cormack: That is impossible!
(Mr Bradshaw) It is on the Internet and it is also in the library of the House. I have got a selection of it here with me, Chairman, which I will happily leave with Mr Mackinlay if he would like to take it home and pore over it himself this evening.
(Mr Bradshaw) Chairman, if I could just reply to that. I do not know whether Mr Mackinlay is suggesting that we send all these documents to every single household.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) We will do that, certainly. We have made the documents which are available already available in the normal way. Certainly in the letters that I write to Members of Parliament who write to me on this subject, without writing reams and reams and reams and pages and pages, at least give them some of the more salient facts of the evidence. The evidence is there in all of the United Nations' inspectors' reports, as I said earlier. It is really not a mystery. Those people who keep demanding more evidence are not exactly certain what it would be to satisfy them that there is a real and verifiable threat posed by this regime.
(Mr Bradshaw) We have always said we will put more evidence in the public domain as we get it. There are limits, as you will understand, to some of the evidence that we can put in the public domain, not least because the bulk of the evidence that we have since the weapons inspectors left, by the very nature of their not being there, is based on intelligence, is based on defections and is based on what we know the Iraqi regime has tried to import.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) I think we have made clear that our view is that the bulk of the evidence is already in the public domain. We will put more evidence in the public domain and we will publish in whatever form we think is the most effective.
(Mr Bradshaw) I am not prepared to say when. When we feel the time is right, Chairman.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) If I could emphasise, simply, rather than constantly asking when a document is going to be published, there are reams of documents already published in the public domain which prove not only what Saddam Hussein was up to as long as the weapons inspectors were there - and you say, rightly, that they have not been there since 1998 I think rather than 1999 so we have had nearly four years now where there have been no weapons inspections - and all the evidence from intelligence, through defections, through what we know Saddam Hussein has tried to import and smuggle in suggests that those programmes have been intensified and accelerated.
Chairman: May we leave you with the point. Surely if the evidence is there and compelling, everyone will understand the intelligence factors which apply with the same force to what was published after 11 September. Surely then there is a very strong case for publishing what is clearly demanded by a great swathe of the public who are currently uneasy but could change their minds if the Government was to publish.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Bradshaw) We agree with you, Chairman, that it is important to publish everything that we can but I do not accept that the publication of some new miracle document is what needs to change people's minds. Anybody who has any doubt about Saddam Hussein and what he has been up to and what his regime is about just needs to study those documents which are already in the public domain. There is no requirement for some great new piece of evidence, it is already there. As I have already said, we will publish what we can when we can as long as it does not compromise as usual.
(Mr Bradshaw) At a time yet to be announced as long as it does not compromise our intelligence operations.
(Mr Bradshaw) If I can say one other thing, Chairman. You will recall that after we published the evidence of al-Qaeda's complicity in the events of 11 September and the previous Africa embassy bombings there were still those who said "Where is the evidence? Where is the evidence?" and in fact it is a cry I still hear when I visit some parts of the world. I am afraid there will always be people who will not be satisfied whatever the evidence.
Sir Patrick Cormack: Let us diminish their numbers.
Chairman: On that theme of diminishing numbers, spreading light, we thank you and we thank your colleagues. The dialogue and the process I am sure will continue.