Mike Gapes pressed Foreign Secretary David Miliband about the crisis in Gaza in the House of Commons today. Here is what he said and the reply by David Miliband
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s measured and comprehensive statement and pay tribute to the role that he and our diplomats in New York played in the adoption of Security Council resolution 1860. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that it is not just regrettable but deplorable that both Hamas and the Government of Israel summarily rejected that resolution? Is it not also deplorable that the United States Administration, having said that they supported the resolution, could not bring themselves to vote for it? Did that not send the wrong signal from the US Government to hard-line elements in the coalition in Israel, and thus produce the wrong result?
The Foreign Secretary said that the Arab League and Egypt are engaged in dialogue with Hamas. In the process of getting a conclusion to this conflict and the beginnings of the necessary settlement, is it not time that the Quartet allowed its representative, Tony Blair, and other representatives to engage directly with Hamas, too, in order to move them to the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel and abiding by previous agreements?
David Miliband: In respect of the US abstention, we would of course have much preferred to see US support for the resolution, as the middle east depends on strong United States engagement and leadership. However, the fact that Condoleezza Rice should say in the explanation of vote that she supported the objectives and contents of the resolution is significant. My hon. Friend is none the less right that the middle east needs strong American leadership if progress is to be made.
It is important to say that a lot of people are talking to Hamas. Egypt is talking to Hamas—mandated by the Arab League to speak on its behalf. Turkey, Syria and Qatar are speaking to Hamas, and Norway has made it clear that it speaks to Hamas as well. So there is no shortage of people speaking to Hamas. In respect of the ceasefire, it is vital that they do speak to Hamas. In respect of any negotiation on a Palestinian state, it is important to take our lead from the elected leader of the Palestinian people, President Abbas, who is seeking unification of the Palestinians under legitimate leadership that is committed to peaceful ends and, in negotiations on a two-state solution, to recognising the state of Israel, which seems to me to be a precondition for effective negotiations.
posted 13 January 2009