Text Of Howe’s Statement
LONDON (AP) _ Here is the text of Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe’s announcement to Parliament on Friday severing diplomatic relations with Syria:
I should like to make a statement on Anglo-Syrian relations. The House will be aware that the trial of Nezar Hindawi at the Central Criminal Court ended today. Hindawi was found guilty of attempting to place a bomb on an El Al aircraft at Heathrow on the 17th of April and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Hindawi has been convicted of a monstrous and inhumane crime. If he had been successful, hundreds of innocent lives would have been lost. The way in which he deceived his pregnant girlfriend into carrying the bomb was particularly wicked and has aroused deep and universal repugnance.
There is conclusive evidence of Syrian official involvement with Hindawi. The House will recall that in May, after Hindawi’s arrest, the government demanded to withdraw the three Syrian Embassy attaches whose diplomatic immunity the Syrian government declined to waive so that police could question them. Evidence at the trial revealed something of the part these attaches played in this affair. The Syrians claim they dealt with Hindawi throughout as a bona fide journalist. Mr. Speaker, that claim is frankly incredible.
Evidence was produced at the trial that Hindawi spent some time in hotel accommodation reserved for Syrian Arab Airlines crew.
Hindawi spent the night the night after the bombing attempt in Syrian Embassy accommodation where his hair clippings and hair dye were found.
Certain facts are undisputed: Hindawi traveled on an official Syrian passport in a false name. Hindawi’s visa applications were on two occasions backed by official notes from the Syrian Foreign Ministry. Hindawi met the Syrian ambassador, Dr. Haydar, in his embassy, after the discovery of the bomb.
In addition, we have independent evidence that the Syrian ambassador was personally involved, several months before the commission of the offense, in securing for Hindawi the sponsorship of the Syrian intelligence authorities. And we have equally compelling evidence that during his detention, Hindawi sought to contact secretly Syrian intelligence officials in Damascus with a request for their assistance in securing his release.
The whole House, Mr. Speaker, will be outraged by the Syrian role in this case. It is unacceptable that the ambassador, members of his staff and the Syrian authorities in Damascus should be involved with a criminal like Hindawi.
We have therefore decided to break diplomatic relations with Syria. Dr. Haydar was informed of this decision this morning and was told to close his embassy and leave the country within 14 days. The British Embassy in Damascus will also be closed. We shall seek to make alternative arrangements of the usual kind for the protection of British interests in Syria.
We are also tightening the security arrangements surrounding the operations in London of Syrian Arab Airlines by imposing special controls on all Syrian Arab Airlines aircraft and crew including stricter searches of personnel, passengers and baggage.
The House will recall that last June we introduced a tougher and stricter visa regime for Syrians wishing to enter the United Kingdom. We shall maintain and strengthen this regime by taking urgent steps to inform our European partners and other friendly governments about the details of the case and the measures we are taking. We are impressing on them the wider security implications of the involvement of the Syrian authorities, and are urging them to take appropriate supporting action.
Mr. Speaker, we regret that these actions have been forced on us by the unacceptable behavior of the Syrian authorities. We remain determined to play our full part with moderate Arab states in the search for a peaceful settlement of the region’s problems. But we remain second to none in our determination to continue the fight to stamp out terrorism in our midst.