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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2487

Mr CROSS —Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs noted reports this morning that France has apparently assisted in the helicopter evacuation of Yasser Arafat from Tripoli in Lebanon? Did he also note reports that the French Foreign Minister, Monsieur Cheysson, has said that the existence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation is vital for a peaceful solution in what he called the ' Near East'? Does the Australian Government agree with the comment of the French Foreign Minister, which will seem to many people to be quite surprising?

Mr HAYDEN —As far as we can establish at this point, the French Defence Ministry has denied the account that a French helicopter was used to evacuate Yasser Arafat. However, a record has come in which relates to comments by Mr Cheysson, the French Foreign Minister. It expresses some of his sentiment about the role of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I have before me a cablegram dealing with some of this. Mr Cheysson is quoted as having said outside the Senate within the last 24 hours:

The disappearance of the Palestinian organisation loyal to Yasser Arafat could not but diminish the possibility of negotiations in the Middle East.

The cable states further:

In a background comment he-

that is, Mr Cheysson-

voiced concern that if the PLO were to disappear as a strong and independent organisation the inevitable result would be a resurgence of Palestinian terrorism.

I wish quickly to make a few more comments, but before doing so I remind honourable members that any comments one makes on this subject must be read in the context of a statement of policy on Middle Eastern matters and, more specifically, concerning Israel and its right to live within secure borders and to have its sovereignty respected by other countries, and an acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people in a number of respects. That is a matter of public record. I mention it so that my further comments will not be misunderstood. I think they have some important substance.

Given conditions in the Middle East, which I think all honourable members would acknowledge are disturbing and which furthermore, I think honourable members would also acknowledge, display the propensity to deteriorate rather rapidly if not handled carefully, the conflict which is taking place between the PLO forces is, I would suggest, more than a tinpot brawl between warring factions of an institutional organisation. I think-and it is open to further testing-given conditions in the Middle East, that if Yasser Arafat were eliminated and his faction largely destroyed that would leave a faction of the PLO which is much more radical, with a clearly expressed propensity for terrorism. That would have a very destabilising effect in the Middle East and, I suspect, elsewhere. Of concern in weighing up these matters-in a problematical way, as one has to do as one sees these events unfold-is that, should that faction be successful in the intent I have mentioned, should it become the cat's paw of another large and powerful regional and national force such as Syria, it would give that power a trump card to play in the Middle East. It would mean that Yasser Arafat who, for all of the deficiencies that many may see in him, nonetheless represents a comparatively-I stress the word 'comparatively'-more moderate position than the more radical group which is--

Mr Lusher —Ha, ha, ha!

Mr HAYDEN —Everything is comparative. I am not stressing this too much, but I ask for serious consideration to be given to this matter and for the issue to be seen in a more responsible, analytical light because of its capability of providing flashpoints-

Mr Peacock —It is all very well your asking for that in areas where you are not involved. What about showing the same responsibility where you are involved?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.

Mr HAYDEN —That will be handled a little later.

Mr Peacock —No, it is not a little later. It is a question of continuity.

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr HAYDEN —Oh, is it?

Mr Peacock —Yes, indeed.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I will not warn the Leader of the Opposition again.

Mr HAYDEN —The Leader of the Opposition is his royal highness in charge of pomposity.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister should proceed with the answer.

Mr HAYDEN —Oh, well, one cannot win them all. The point I wish to make very shortly is simply this: Were such a regional power to be successful in the way in which I have outlined, it would have extraordinary clout within that region, first of all with Arab countries and, secondly, with the Palestinian people, especially on the West Bank and in Gaza. That in turn would complicate greatly the already very difficult and extraordinarily complicated process of trying to unravel the problems in the Middle East. I suggest that in those circumstances the comments of Mr Cheysson are worthy of much more sober consideration than perhaps they have been given and which certainly the Opposition, or at least its leader, is capable of extending.