Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I welcome the general tone of the Foreign Secretary’s comments, but is it not time to stop treating Iran as a pariah state and to treat it instead as a proud nation which plays a key role, if a nefarious one, in so many middle east conflicts? Should he not press for direct engagement with Iran on Syria and on Israel-Palestine? Now that its people have voted directly to engage with the west on the basis of respect, even if their Government have policies with which we bitterly disagree, it is surely essential to press that engagement. Unless we do, I see no prospect of the middle east, which is in one of its most unstable and dangerous situations ever, stabilising. Iran holds the key to that.

Mr Hague: It has to be recognised that Iran has brought its isolation and economic sanctions upon itself, through its own actions. However, the British people have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our dispute is over Iran’s nuclear programme. It will be difficult to create the atmosphere to address constructively with Iran all the other issues in the middle east that the right hon. Gentleman has quite legitimately mentioned without settling the nuclear issue. That is the central point. That is not just the view of the UK; we must remember that the E3 plus 3 include China and Russia, and our negotiating position is agreed with them. We are all agreed that the Iranian response has not been adequate or realistic so far. A change in that situation would unlock the opportunity for us to work together on other issues, and for Iran to be treated with the respect that the world would owe it as a major nation in its region. That is all there for the taking if we can resolve the nuclear issue.

UN recognition of Palestine

Peter Hain has joined a cross party group of other MP’s including the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who are campaigning in a move to see Palestine recognised as an independent state by the United Nations General Assembly due on September 27th.

Peter is an ardent supporter of a peace process where Israeli and Palestinian needs are addressed with equal measure, and a settlement is reached.  With a long standing record of working in politically divided nations such as Northern Ireland and South Africa under the apartheid, Mr Hain has with personal impetus witnessed the outcome of negotiations and peace settlements.

The parliamentary motion EDM 502 on UN Recognition of Palestine was tabled on Tuesday 11th of September and already has 64 signatures.  More are expected to sign before Parliament goes back into recess next Tuesday. It was conceived by Labour MP for Birmingham Northfields Richard Burden, and is designed to persuade the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to back the motion for Palestinian statehood.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has already declared that he will support statehood for the Palestinians at the UN and there is widespread support among Liberal Democrat MPs.

Whilst Northern Ireland Secretary (2005-2007), Peter was instrumental in creating lasting political working relationships, which would pave the way to the decommissioning of the IRA’s armoury and military campaign.  He worked ceaselessly with both factions and found common ground through which both interests were represented.

‘I have long believed that the solution to the Middle East conflict is a settlement which both guarantees the security of Israel and enables an independent state of Palestine.  As a Minister I worked to support that objective.  But now uncompromising belligerence from the Israeli government coupled with intransigence and hostility elsewhere in the region, including from some Palestinian extremist groups, means such a settlement seems unlikely.  The world should therefore move to officially recognise Palestine as a state.  I am glad that the British Labour Party leadership takes the same view.’