James Cleverly, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, responds to questions from MPs.
We are concerned about Iran’s destabilising regional activity. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps provides military and financial support for groups that include the Houthis and Hezbollah. Support for those groups is in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions and undermines prospects for regional stability. We have called on Iran to play a constructive role in the region, and Ministers and senior officials routinely raise concerns with Iranian counterparts and regional partners.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the nexus of Iran’s destabilising activities, distributing funds and weapons in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The revolutionary guard is already subject to UK sanctions, but does the Minister agree that full proscription should now be applied? Does he share my concerns that the expiration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action arms embargo in October stands to enable the revolutionary guard to expand its murderous regional actions?
We have long expressed our deeply held concerns about the de-stabilising activity of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. I take into consideration the points my hon. Friend makes about its activity, but the UK Government do not routinely comment on organisations that they may proscribe. The proscription list is regularly reviewed and we will always take situations on the ground into consideration when we update it.
We welcome the ongoing co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority towards tackling covid-19, a matter I was pleased to discuss directly with the Israeli ambassador to the UK and the Palestinian Prime Minister recently. UN agencies, the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority are working together to ensure essential medical supplies and staff reach the most vulnerable areas, including Gaza. We encourage continued positive interaction between Israel and the Palestinian authorities in their efforts to fight covid-19.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the UN special co-ordinator for the middle east peace process recently praised the way the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority have been working together to tackle covid-19. Does he agree that that kind of practical co-operation—the building of trust and meeting shared challenges head on—is the way that peace will get built in the region? Will he step up his efforts to encourage genuine negotiations based on the two-state solution?
In conversations I have had with both representatives of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority I have praised the way they have worked together on this matter. I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend that international co-operation is the way that we, as the international community, will fight it. As the Prime Minister said at the coronavirus global response international pledging conference he co-hosted in May, the race for a vaccine is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetime. If the attitudes we bring into fighting this disease can be more broadly applied, I think the world would be a better place.
I thank the Minister for his comments. Will he join me in welcoming the news that Israel has approved a $230 million advance payment to the Palestinian Authority, alongside coronavirus test kits, intensive care beds, ventilators, drugs and protective equipment? Is that not exactly the kind of behaviour we should welcome and encourage?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the points he makes. We have indeed commented positively to the Israeli Government on how they have worked with the Palestinian Authority. I made the same point to Palestinian Authority representatives on the way they have worked with the Israeli Government. It shows a pattern of co-operation that should be replicated. I hope it is a step towards building trust that will enable a sustainable peaceful solution to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We are going to have to speed up the answers Minister, please. We now go across to welcome Wayne David to his new position.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. As has been said, there is encouraging co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians with regard to covid-19. I am sure the Minister agrees that that highlights how wrong it is for a new Israeli Government to pursue a policy of illegal annexation of large parts of the west bank. What are the Government doing to mobilise international opinion against that annexation?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place, although it is virtual. The UK Government have expressed, both publicly and to the Government of Israel, our concerns about reports of annexation, which we have consistently said we oppose and could be detrimental to the chances of the peaceful, sustainable two-state solution that we should all be working towards.
The UK is deeply concerned about the reports that the new Israeli Government coalition have reached an agreement that may pave the way for annexation of parts of the west bank. Any unilateral move towards the annexation of parts of the west bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart the peace process and contradictory to international law, and might make the chances of a sustainable two-state solution harder. We recently made clear our concerns at the UN Security Council remote meeting on the middle east peace process on 23 April.
I appreciate the Minister’s concern, but does he believe that the proposed annexation by Israel of the Palestinian territories would be illegal under international law? If so, does he think that the United Kingdom Government’s response should be the same as it would be with other countries guilty of illegal annexation, such as Russia?
Our long-standing position is that such a move would be contrary to international law. We continue to have a constructive relationship with both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and we will continue to work towards a peaceful resolution that takes us to a sustainable two-state solution. That is our long-standing position, and we continue to work towards it.
I am pleased to hear the Minister condemn any proposed annexation of territories in the west bank by the Israeli Government. Will he go further and accept that such an annexation would render any future Palestinian state unviable, would destroy its geographical integrity, and as such would render a two-state solution obsolete? Is it not absolutely essential that the Government act now with others to stop the Israelis annexing territory in the way that they currently intend?
As I said, our long-standing position is that we do not support the annexation of parts of the west bank, as doing so could make a sustainable two-state solution harder. We support actions by the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority that take us closer to a sustainable two-state solution, and we express our concerns about anything that might put that at risk.