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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Supporting Measures which Bring Peace

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The conflict around the Lebanese/Israel border has produced disturbing and desperate scenes in both Lebanon and Israel during recent weeks. There have been a large number of innocent people killed or injured during a conflict that had nothing to do with them.

 

The UK Government has been engaged in complex discussions to get a sustainable ceasefire, agreed by all sides. The unanimous agreement of a resolution at the UN provides a chance to create long term stability in the area. The international community now has to work together to ensure there is lasting peace in the area. As the Prime Minister has stated, “we must work to address the underlying root causes of this conflict?.which is about the ability of the democratically elected Lebanese Government to be in charge of Lebanon”.

 

I support the measures agreed in the ceasefire resolution, and I will continue to urge support for measures which will bring peace. Israel and its neighbours need to work together as equals to stabilise the situation in the whole Middle East, and both Iran and Syria should recognise Israel’s right to exist as a legitimate state

 

As I write the ceasefire appears to be holding, let us all hope it continues. I enclose a copy of a letter from the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office outlining the current situation, and the position of the UK government.

 

 

Meg Munn MP

 

 

 

 

Foreign &

Commonwealth

Office

London SW1A 2AH

 

from The Minister of State

 

14 August 2006

 

The crisis in the Middle East has been the Government’s top foreign policy concern in recent weeks. I would like to take this opportunity to update you on our efforts to restore peace there.

 

Following prolonged negotiations at the UN, the Foreign Secretary flew to New York on 10 August, ahead of other key players, to use her influence to bring matters to the earliest possible end. This followed a period of intense diplomatic activity, in which the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I were all heavily engaged. The remaining issues of difference were finally resolved early on 11 August, following a further round of contacts in New York and between capitals. The Security Council then moved rapidly to final agreement on UNSCR 1701 (http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions06.). Its adoption is immensely welcome.

 

The resolution’s objectives are clear: to bring about a full cessation of hostilities; to create the space for an urgent humanitarian relief effort; and to begin a process leading to a permanent ceasefire and a durable peace. This last point is crucial. We needed a resolution that looked beyond the short-term and held out the prospect of a lasting solution. That meant agreeing a text which took proper account of the positions of the sovereign and elected governments of both Lebanon and Israel. That was not straightforward, and took time and effort. But I believe firmly it was the right thing to do.

 

It is deeply tragic that so many lives, Lebanese and Israeli, have been lost over the past weeks. We must now take the steps necessary to secure a lasting settlement. We will do all we can to help Lebanon move forward, to live in peace and prosperity with all its neighbours.

 

With hostilities hopefully at an end, one immediate priority is to address the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. The UN agencies have been working tirelessly, but have faced extremely difficult conditions on the ground. We hope now to see a rapid expansion of these efforts, and those of other relief organisations and bilateral donors. The UK will play its full part. The Prime Minister has been in direct touch with Prime Minister Siniora about ways in which the UK can support the recovery effort, including through providing emergency bridging to help the flow of assistance. The UK is contributing £6.2 million to meet priority relief needs in Lebanon - most of this will be channelled through UN agencies, and we will support the Red Cross and a number of NGOs, whose role will be crucial. A British team of humanitarian experts and experts in post-conflict reconstruction has been in Lebanon, and the Secretary of State for International Development plans to visit the region soon to examine the situation first hand.

 

The other immediate task is to stabilise the peace. Urgent work is underway to strengthen the UN Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as quickly as possible, to carry out the range of important new tasks set out in the resolution. The force will need to be built up from around 2,000 at present to a maximum of 15,000. This is the responsibility of the UN, which will need to work quickly with potential troop providers to build up the force and agree operational plans; but we are in close touch with the relevant officials at the UN, and with those countries who might able to offer forces. Because of our existing military commitments it would be very difficult for the UK to offer ground forces of its own, but we are looking at other ways in which the UK can support IJNIFIL.

 

We must also work to address the underlying root causes of this conflict. This means, of course, strengthening the ability of the democratically elected Lebanese Government to be in sole charge of Lebanon, and ensuring that militias, supported and supplied from outside Lebanon, can never again plunge the region into crisis. However, as the Prime Minister has said, we must never lose sight of the fact that the conflict in Lebanon arose out of the continuing impasse in Palestine. This issue is of fundamental importance, not just to Israelis and Palestinians but to the whole of the region and the wider world. The Prime Minister intends to visit the region, in particular Israel and Palestine, over the coming period, and will consult those there and of course members of the Quartet on the best way forward.

 

KIM HOWELLS 


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