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Does the noble Baroness agree that everything really depends on the precise nature and sequence of those obligations and on what the frontiers of the new transitional, or eventually permanent, state will be? Does she accept that the details in the full text of the speech are much more enlightening in terms of describing the heavy obligations on Israel than the newspaper reports which were carried in most newspapers this morning? Given that there really will be no advance until there is an end of suicide bombing and probably no end of suicide bombing until there are moves to end the Israeli occupation, how does the noble Baroness feel that the British Government can help take all this forward?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I very much welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said on the positive engagement of the United States. I agree with him that the speech that we have seen bears a strong resemblance to many of the points put forward earlier this year by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the plans that he suggested might be a possible way forward. Copies of President Bush's speech have been put in the Library of the House. I agree with the noble Lord that it makes interesting reading. It is very much a set of principles rather than details. It is worth noting that the President has said that he has asked Secretary of State Powell to work intensively with Middle Eastern and international leaders to realise the vision of a Palestinian state, focusing them on a comprehensive plan to support Palestinian reform and institution building. He has charged his Secretary of State with taking that issue forward.
The United Kingdom will do whatever it can to help in that process. The speech itself does not mention a conference, but we understand that the United States still believes that a conference would be helpful and that it would want to engage at ministerial level with Palestinians and Israelis and, of course, with members of the quartet as well. The United Kingdom will hold itself ready to help with preparing for and monitoring of any elections which might take place.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, made it clear that there is to be a two-state solution. The President of the United States is an enormously influential and powerful man, but it is not for him to decide that. It will, of course, be a matter for the people of the regionthe Palestinians and the Israeliswho must understand (as I am sure we hope that they all do) that the way forward on this issue is not through the appalling violence that we have seen in recent weeks but through a negotiated settlement. It is very much to be hoped that they see the wisdom not only in what is being put forward today by the President, but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, in the way that it reflects so much of what has been put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah. It is up to both sides to take the matter forward.
The noble Lord went into details about where the individual borders of the states might run. That would be a matter for negotiations. But the President of the United States has made it clear that he thinks that the Israeli forces need to withdraw to the positions that they held prior to 28th September 2000, which refers back to the Mitchell committee, and says that the Israeli settlement activity has to stop. Those are the tenets from which he is beginning. We very much hope that this opportunity will be seized by both sides to find a peaceful solution to their very longstanding problems.
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, would my noble friend the Minister care to tell the House whether or not Her Majesty's Government agree with President Bush when he implicitly calls for the removal of Mr Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Authority? As the Palestinian Authority has already stated that it wishes to hold elections in the Palestinian area, does my noble friend agree that it would be far better if Israel were to try to help create the conditions in which fair elections could be held there so that the Palestinian people could decide for themselves who they wished to have as their leader?
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that President Bush commented on the need for a different leadership because he shares the views of many of those of us who seek peace in the Middle East that the present Palestinian leadership would create a terrorist state in waiting?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the reasons for President Bush saying what he did are a matter for him. Her Majesty's Government have made it very clear that we expect President Arafat and the Palestinian leadership to do everything that they can to combat terror, which has been such an appalling facet of what has happened in the Middle East. I can do no more than repeat what I said; namely, that it is the firm view of Her Majesty's Government that this is a matter for the Palestinian people. Until the elections are held, President Arafat is the elected president of the Palestinian Authority and the representative of the only organisation with which Israel can negotiate at the moment.
Lord Ampthill: My Lords, before the noble Lord on the Woolsack puts the Question, does the noble and learned Lord have a faint feeling of embarrassment at the fact that out of the 232 amendments to be moved today and later, he is responsible for 130, or over half of them?
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