Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  1.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has prepared this initial Memorandum for the Foreign Affairs Committee enquiry into Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism, covering the areas of particular interest to the Committee.


  2.  Since 11 September the Foreign Office and its posts have been actively engaged in the Government's intensive efforts to promote international cooperation to create and sustain the coalition against terrorism. The immediate aim remains to close down the Al Qaida network and bring UBL and his associates to justice. We continue to take action against the Taleban regime because they have sided with Al Qaida. Politically, we and others are agreed on the need for a broad-based interim administration in post-Taleban Afghanistan, reflecting the diversity of the country. The international community is united in its readiness to provide humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction. A robust coalition has been built around these aims. The UK has been at the forefront in promoting them, in close alliance with the US.

  3.  Condemnation by governments of the 11 September attacks has been virtually universal, as have been statements of support for the fight against terrorism. Some examples: at the UN, where Resolution 1368 made clear that those indirectly as well as directly responsible must be held to account and where Resolution 1373 imposed obligations on all states to suppress terrorist financing and deny terrorists safe havens in which to operate; at NATO, with the invocation of Article 5; in the EU, where many practical and legal measures are being taken to strengthen cooperation against terrorism; in the Organisation of American States, with the invocation of the Rio Treaty on Mutual Assistance; and in statements by the Commonwealth, the G8, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council, CARICOM, the Organisation of African Unity and the Association of South East Asian Nations. The UK played an active role in promoting the UN resolutions, the NATO decision, the EU programmes of action and the Commonwealth and G8 statements.

  4.  Military offers have been made by a wide range of countries. All the NATO allies have pledged support. At NATO we have pushed forward the deployment of joint NATO assets such as the Standing Force in the Mediterranean and the NATO AWACS. Japan has taken a big step in allowing its Self Defence Force to fill a non-combat role. Russia has agreed overflights and offered Combat Search and Rescue support. Other countries which have made military offers include India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Many countries have approved overflights. We have been active in encouraging a positive US response to the offer by allies, especially our European partners.

  5.  The future government of Afghanistan should contain representatives of all ethnic groups, and should respect the human rights of all the Afghan people, cooperate fully in international efforts to combat terrorism and illicit drug trafficking, and facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance. The UN should play a central role in supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to establish an interim administration urgently. These principles are encapsulated in UNSCR 1378 (based on a UK/French draft), which also encourages Member States to support efforts to ensure the safety and security of areas of Afghanistan no longer under Taleban control. The Foreign Secretary, senior official emissaries (Paul Bergne and Robert Cooper) and posts have consistently promoted these key messages in their contacts with relevant governments.

  6.  This crisis has shaken the political kaleidoscope and opened up new opportunities, which we are seeking to seize. Russia is not only working closely with the West against terrorism but also wants to come closer to Western organisations such as NATO and the EU. At the Prime Minister's direction, the FCO has developed ideas on how to promote this. China has not pressed its traditional position on non-interference in internal affairs and is working constructively with the other Permanent Members of the Security Council. Its objectives for post-Taleban Afghanistan are close to ours. Pakistan's decision to support the coalition was immensely important and has greatly changed its relations with the West. The UK is in constant touch with the Pakistani government at all levels from the Prime Minister downwards, and is providing significant humanitarian and other assistance. Our post in Islamabad is a key asset for contacts with Afghan parties and humanitarian agencies, as well as the government of Pakistan. Iran has closed its borders to stop terrorists escaping, though agreeing to allow humanitarian assistance through. The UK is maintaining an active dialogue with Iran, initiated by a visit by the Foreign Secretary.

  7.  We have taken a leading role in the international effort to strengthen counter-terrorism measures worldwide. The European Council has agreed to the introduction of a European Arrest Warrant and the adoption of the common definition of terrorism. We have also taken a leading role in the work on this in both the General Affairs Council and the Justice and Home Affairs Council. The UN has been the primary forum for building and consolidating global support. The UK Permanent Representative in New York, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, chairs the Counter Terrorist Committee set up under UNSCR 1373. This is now working intensively to ensure that governments live up to their obligations to suppress terrorist financing and deny terrorists a safe haven from which to operate. Also in the UN, there has been intensive work on a draft Comprehensive Terrorism Convention, though consensus has yet to be reached.

  8.  We have been particularly active in the G7 and G8, which in various formats are seeking:

    —  to extend previously agreed recommendations to combat money laundering to cover terrorist financing;

    —  to cooperate on financial sanctions, on aviation security, on arms trafficking, on drugs/terrorism links, on aviation security, on non-aviation security ; and

    —  to promote cooperation between CT, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

  9.  The Financial Action Task Force, meeting in Washington on 29-30 October, broadened its previous mandate to deal with the proceeds of crime so that it now includes terrorist finance. We are heavily engaged in work now in hand on new regulatory standards to combat the financing of terrorism.


  10.  The FCO works in support of DFID in this area. From the outset we have stressed the importance of doing everything possible to get humanitarian assistance through to the people of Afghanistan. That is obviously important both in its own right and to show the Afghan people and other countries in the region that our quarrel is with the Taleban and their support for terrorism and not with the ordinary people of the country. Significant amounts of assistance are now getting into Afghanistan: over the seven day period from 4-11 November the World Food Programme (WFP) was able to despatch on average 2300 metric tonnes per day into the country, and weekly quantities despatched now average over five times pre-bombing levels. WFP have, however, now increased their daily target from l700mt to 3000mt to ensure that supplies are adequate and stockpiles maintained. We have made clear that we will not turn our backs on Afghanistan after the present action. We will help with reconstruction over the long term.

  11.  The UK seeks to support the UN lead on recovery issues, implementing initiatives already established to strengthen the UN response to the conflict. DFID have set aside £lm to support the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakdhar Brahimi, and the Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF), which will enable the IMTF to consult the Afghan diaspora. DFID also intend to support a proposal from the International Organisation for Migration to identify qualified Afghans in the diaspora to join the reconstruction effort. Policy is evolving fast. We are in touch with the World Bank, EU and other key players, endeavouring to maintain coherent support behind the UN.

  12.  A paper by the Department for International Development (DFID) on an emergency plan for the first 100 days of recovery in Afghanistan is attached at Annex A[1].


  13.  If the political coalition is to remain broad and be sustained, we need to make every effort to reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process, as the Prime Minister has made clear. Dissatisfaction with stalemate in the Peace Process is one of the factors which have, over time, created a climate in which desperation and extremism have flourished. We have long been engaged in efforts to resolve the crisis in the Occupied Territories and build a secure future for the region. The events of 11 September have underlined the need to make tangible progress soon. Tackling the Middle East conflict is necessary on its own merits, but would also help dry up a major source of terrorist recruitment and maintain the consensus for action against international terrorism.

  14.  All parties agree that full implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet recommendations offers the best way forward. The immediate steps needed to reduce tension and create the confidence which will allow for sustained progress are clear: Israel must withdraw from the Area A (ie Palestinian-controlled) land which the IDF is currently re-occupying, and the Palestinian Authority must take concrete and specific steps to arrest and detain cease-fire violators.

  15.  In the longer-term our goal is a solution which embodies the two principles of Israeli security and a viable Palestinian state: a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the principle of 'land for peace', security for Israel within recognised borders, and an end to occupation. We have continued to urge the parties to work towards these goals. We have underlined the importance of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks and the need for an agreement based on the Security Council Resolutions, and have reminded other Arab countries of the contribution they can make by strongly and publicly confirming their commitment to Israel's security within recognised borders.

  16.  The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been fully engaged in sustained efforts to reinvigorate the search for peace. The Prime Minister visited Egypt on 11 October and travelled to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority between 30 October and 1 November. The Foreign Secretary and Ben Bradshaw, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, have also visited the region. We have concerted closely with the US, whose leverage with the parties is essential to the success of international efforts. We have co-ordinated our activity closely with our EU partners, supporting the efforts of the EU High Representative Javier Solana and EU Special Representative Miguel Moratinos. The General Affairs Council has called on the parties to resume negotiations without preconditions. The Foreign Secretary and his EU Ministerial colleagues have co-ordinated their visits in an effort to maintain a constant presence in the region, encouraging and pressing both parties to lift their view beyond the current violence and focus on the need for political negotiations to create a future free from bloodshed.

  17.  Our efforts will be maintained. Making progress will not be easy but remains very necessary. We have worked to ensure leaders and public opinion in the Islamic world understand that we are determined to address the obstacles to sustained progress on the MEPP.

  18.  We have also focussed on the need to reduce the levels of tension between India and Pakistan. Since 11 September, the Prime Minister has seen President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee twice, and the Foreign Secretary has spoken to his Indian and Pakistani counterparts on several occasions. Pakistan has begun to clamp down on Pakistan-based terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir, and President Musharraf unequivocally condemned the 1 October attack in Srinagar. The Indian government has acted with restraint, and has not conducted any military action across the Line of Control.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

19th November 2001

1   See Evidence, pp Ev 3-Ev 7. Back

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