Tuesday 26th March 2024

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s second point, about threatening to withhold arms exports, I do not believe I have said that. On his earlier point, I am sorry, but I do not agree with him. As we have seen directly through the exchanges we have had with COGAT, there has been a real challenge. British trucks with British aid have been waiting on the borders of Gaza. He quoted the numbers; I quoted greater numbers than he did. We have seen a change—an uptick, but it is a small uptick—in the number of trucks entering; perhaps he has not visited to see the backlog of trucks. Let us be clear what has happened in Gaza. There is no infrastructure. The UN itself is not getting the visas it needs. The noble Lord shakes his head, but this is fact. We have been lobbying on this and this is our advocacy.

We have a very strong relationship with Israel. When Mr Gantz visited London, the Foreign Secretary and I made clear the importance of this issue, and Israel recognises its responsibilities. It is a democracy and it has international obligations, including adherence to international humanitarian law. Because of the advocacy of countries such as the United Kingdom, we see that there has been some movement. We have seen an increase in aid going in, but this is not enough. We have looked in detail at the 500 or 600 trucks. Let us also be clear: certain produce was produced in Gaza and that is no longer happening. What is needed right now, as the report we discussed only a few days ago made clear, is to avert a humanitarian famine, and Israel has an important role to play in this.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that the Security Council has turned into a completely dysfunctional organisation? It rejected a resolution a couple of days ago that would have linked the release of the hostages to a ceasefire. It turned that down. This time, the two conditions are not linked, and they are not enforceable. It is no more possible to enforce the release of hostages than it is to enforce a ceasefire against Hamas, which was not mentioned in that resolution. Will the Minister push for the Red Cross to be allowed to visit the hostages and for the hostages to be released first? Will he also note that the news we are getting from Gaza is almost totally unreliable, because so much of it comes from journalists who are controlled by or in the pocket of Hamas? Will he focus on the hostages? I am sad to say how empty is that phrase: never again.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am sad to say that I disagree with the noble Baroness. First, of course I am focused on the hostages. I have met with the relatives of hostages not once, twice or three times, but several times over. In my Statement, I spoke about the importance of recognising their suffering. I met with a hostage’s mother only last week, as did the Foreign Secretary. The premise of saying that we are not focused on the hostages, frankly, does not add up.

Secondly, I do not agree with the noble Baroness’s assessment of the UN Security Council. Yes, it has been challenging but what we saw yesterday was the Security Council coming together. On her earlier point, let me read from the Security Council resolution, which I have in front of me. It refers to:

“Acknowledging the ongoing diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United States, aimed at reaching a cessation of hostilities, releasing the hostages and increasing the provision and distribution of humanitarian aid”.

It contains three provisions. The first:

“Demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a … sustainable ceasefire, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of … hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access”.

I invite the noble Baroness and noble Lords to read the resolution, which is very clear.