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United Kingdom
Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw
Interview in Al Mushahid Al Siyasi Magazine
September 27, 2001

QUESTION:
The terrorist attack in the United States has amongst other things put the spotlight back on the Middle East, and on prospects for a negotiated peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. What is your assessment? Is there a danger that the attacks in the US might encourage Israel to adopt an increasingly hard-line approach toward the Occupied Territories and thereby further to weaken the chances of a negotiated settlement in the region?

MR BRADSHAW:
The atrocities in the US reinforce the need for concerted efforts to end the violence in the region. The latest indications of a ceasefire are encouraging. I urge the parties to seize this opportunity to rebuild the peace process. As Jack Straw has said, our common international efforts to counter terrorism have to be accompanied by parallel, sustained efforts to reinvigorate the search for peace in the Middle East.

QUESTION:
Secretary of State Jack Straw's statement regarding Israeli withdrawal and freezing of settlements is most welcome and reflects a new tone over the major issues concerning Palestine/Israel. Are we to understand that Europe is finally taking a strong initiative in the Arab-Israeli conflict?

MR BRADSHAW:
The European Union has been playing a significant role in support of Middle East peace for some time. Substantial EU financial aid has helped save the Palestinian Authority (PA) from collapse and further economic suffering and despair. EU Foreign Policy Representative Javier Solana contributed to the Mitchell Committee report and has been involved in intensive diplomacy - in close co-ordination with the US - pressing for its full implementation. He and EU Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos have been active in support of recent ceasefires.

We will not hesitate to criticise either side for actions which promote this conflict. Israel is entitled to its security. But, as Jack Straw has said, the only way to achieve this is through peace, and that will come only through a political process which implements ‘land for peace’, brings an end to occupation and allows the emergence of a viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state, committed to co-existence with Israel.

QUESTION:
How does Britain view the recent arrests of opposition groups and leaders that took place in Lebanon? How does the British government regard the Lebanese Christian-Druze-Moslem rapprochement as a means to restore the sovereignty of Lebanon? Is the subject of human rights in the Middle East region, as a whole, of concern to the British government?

MR BRADSHAW:
Britain is concerned about human rights throughout the world, including in our own country. Wherever we discuss human rights, we do so with respect for different cultures and religions. In the Middle East, we have concerns about human rights issues in several countries, including Israel. We raise these with the governments concerned. The European Union has expressed its concerns to the government of Lebanon about the recent arrests there.

QUESTION:
You will visit North African countries soon. How does Britain view the United Nations / James Baker initiative to solve the Western Sahara conflict, and the agreement to give the Sahara self-rule for five years followed by a referendum? What does this mean with regard to international companies and having excavation rights and other concessions in the new Sahara entity? With whom will they negotiate while Sahara is still part of Morocco? What about the roles of Algeria and Polisario? What will you try to do during your North African visit?

MR BRADSHAW:
The UK fully supports the UN's and James Baker's efforts to broker a solution to the Western Sahara dispute. We encourage all the parties to the dispute to engage flexibly and in good faith with all the proposals put forward by the UN and James Baker. It is for the parties to the dispute to agree on the details of any settlement.

I shall be delivering this message to Moroccan and Algerian leaders during my visit to Morocco and Algeria at the end of the month. I shall be stressing Britain's commitment to helping the Governments of Morocco and Algeria implement political and economic reforms which promote stability and prosperity for their peoples and respect for human rights.

QUESTION:
How does Britain view the human rights situation in Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia?

MR BRADSHAW:
Britain has a range of concerns about human rights in North Africa and elsewhere. We address these with the governments concerned, respecting their different cultures and religion. Increasing respect for human rights requires commitment from governments. Morocco has shown what can be achieved when this commitment is given and I encourage the Government to continue along this path.

QUESTION:
Will, under its present leadership, Libya be accepted in the international community if it improves its human rights situation and if the Lockerbie trial reaches an acceptable outcome for all parties concerned?

MR BRADSHAW:
The UK restored diplomatic relations with Libya in 1999. UN sanctions were suspended following the handover of the Lockerbie suspects for trial in The Netherlands. The sanctions can be lifted as soon as Libya accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials and pays appropriate compensation.

I welcome Libya’s sympathetic response to the recent terrorist attacks in the United States and its offer of assistance. This is a further sign that the Libyan regime is keen to turn away from international terrorism and cooperate with the international community.

QUESTION:
Could we apply the same logic to Iraq? Is Britain confident that an alternative regime to the present one in Iraq will be more favourable to British and Western interests in Iraq itself and in the region as a whole?

MR BRADSHAW:
The same logic applies to Iraq: if Iraq fulfils the requirements of UN resolutions, sanctions can be lifted. UN Security Council Resolution 1284, which continues to provide the framework for our policy, also offers Iraq the opportunity of the suspension of sanctions if it co-operates with UN weapons inspectors.

Iraq would clearly be better off without the current regime. But the government of Iraq is a matter for the Iraqi people. Britain is not working towards the overthrow of the regime and supports Iraq's territorial integrity. The aim of British policy is not to install a regime more favourable to our interests, but to remove the threat of Iraq's weapons - to the Iraqi people and their neighbours - and relieve the Iraqi people's suffering. Our recent proposals - which would mean no sanctions on ordinary exports to Iraq, only controls on military and weapons-related goods - give the lie to the Iraqi propaganda that we do not care about the Iraqi people.

QUESTION:
Why would Britain be more interested in protecting the Kurds in the North of Iraq and the Shiites in the South of Iraq than defending the human rights of the Christians in Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt and other minorities elsewhere?

MR BRADSHAW:
Britain is not more interested in protecting the Kurds and Shia of Iraq than minorities elsewhere. But the Baghdad regime has carried out a systematic campaign to eliminate the Kurdish and Shia identities. UN Security Council Resolution 688 called for an end to Baghdad's brutal repression of the Kurds, Shia and other minorities. However, we have taken action to defend the rights of minorities in many other countries.

QUESTION:
Why did the Saudis accuse a number of Britons living there of being involved in terrorism? Why were the ‘confessions’ displayed in a public and offensive way? Is there a problem between Britain and Saudi Arabia?

MR BRADSHAW:
Britain enjoys very good relations with Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the confessions of British nationals to bombings in the Kingdom. It is not for me to comment publicly on the evidence against them - the Saudi investigation into the bombings is continuing.

QUESTION:
Do you have any plans to visit Qatar, UAE, Bahrain in the near future? How does the British government regard a role for Qatar as a mediator in the Arab/Israeli conflict and in other political conflicts in the region?

MR BRADHSAW:
I hope very much to visit the Gulf before too long. Britain has a major stake in the future stability and prosperity of the region, where tens of thousands of British citizens are resident. Our trade with the region is buoyant and we value our close ties with the Gulf countries. We would welcome efforts by any third party to help end the violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, rebuild confidence and restart the political process. A negotiated settlement is the only alternative to the bloodshed we have seen.

QUESTION:
Who represents the greatest danger for British and Western interests in the region at the moment? Ariel Sharon, who is inciting all the Arabs and Moslems of the region with his extremist and violent policies, or Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Khatimi and Mu'ammar Qadafi? Or would you say that it is now Osama Bin Laden?

MR BRADSHAW:
There can be no doubt that international terrorism represents the greatest danger, not just to British and Western interests, but to all decent nations around the world. The attacks in the US were an assault on humanity itself. And the prime suspect, in our opinion, is Osama Bin Laden.

I welcome the condemnation of the attacks by the vast majority of Muslim and Arab leaders. I shall be discussing the international community’s response with Moroccan and Algerian leaders during my forthcoming visit.

END


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Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.