Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  1.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office submitted an initial Memorandum for the Foreign Affairs Committee enquiry into Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism on 19 November 2001. This is an updated and more detailed version.


  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. Despite significant progress in rolling back the Taleban in Afghanistan and a severe degradation of the capability of the Al Qaida network, the immediate tasks of closing down the organisation and bringing Usama Bin Laden and his associates to justice remain to be completed. We will continue to take action against the Taleban, because they have sided with Al Qaida.

  3.  Condemnation by governments of the 11 September attacks has been virtually universal, as have been statements of support for the fight against terrorism. At the UN, Security Council Resolution 1368 made clear that those indirectly as well as directly responsible must be held to account. Resolution 1373 imposed obligations on all states to suppress terrorist financing and deny terrorists safe havens in which to operate. At NATO, Article 5 was invoked on 2 October, the first such invocation in the Organisation's history. In the EU, many practical and legal measures are being taken to strengthen cooperation against terrorism. The Organisation of American States has invoked the Rio Treaty on Mutual Assistance. Statements have been made 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 assistance has been offered by a wide range of countries. Some forty have made specific pledges of equipment, troops or overflight facilities to the coalition headquarters in CENTCOM. All NATO allies have pledged support under Article 5: NATO joint assets such as AWACS and the Standing Naval Force in the Mediterranean have been deployed. As well as US and British troops, French troops have now been deployed to the region. Canadian troops are ready to deploy if they are required and Chancellor Schroeder has won a Bundestag vote to authorise the deployment of German troops. Russia has agreed overflights and offered Combat Search and Rescue support. Japan has taken an important step in allowing its self-defence forces to play a non-combat role in support of coalition activity. Other countries that have made significant offers of assistance include Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and Romania. The FCO have been active in encouraging a positive US response to these offers by allies, especially our European partners.

  5.  But winning the military battle is only one aspect of the coalition's objectives. Politically, we and the international community are agreed on the need for an interim administration followed by a new government in Afghanistan, which should contain representatives of all ethnic groups. It should respect the human rights of all the Afghan people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. It should cooperate fully in international efforts to combat terrorism and illicit drug trafficking within and from Afghanistan. It should facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance and the orderly return of refugees and internally displaced persons. The UN should play, and is playing, a central role in supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to establish the interim administration urgently. These principles are encapsulated in UNSCR 1378, 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.  The FCO has been working to maintain a consensus that has developed amongst Afghanistan's neighbours and more widely to break the cycle of direct bilateral support for client factions and interference within Afghanistan. The Foreign Secretary reinforced these messages at the highest levels when he met the Uzbek Foreign Minister in New York on 14 November and when he visited Iran and Pakistan on 22-23 November. His efforts have been backed up by regular contacts between FCO Posts and their host governments in the region. All the neighbouring countries recognise that it must be for the Afghans themselves to decide their future.

  7.  Within the EU, Foreign Ministers have agreed in the General Affairs Council that a Special EU Representative for Afghanistan should be appointed. The Representative will co-ordinate EU policy on the political process in Afghanistan and stay in close touch with other key countries and organisations, especially the UN.

  8.  The FCO has actively supported the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. The British Office in Kabul facilitated the participation of the United Front delegation in the Bonn conference which opened on 27 November, by arranging their transport on an RAF aircraft. The conference has been an important first step in the domestic political process, with each of the main ethnic groups represented. Delegations have come from the United Front, the Cyprus Process, the former king's Rome Process and the Pushtun groups in exile in Pakistan. Three of the delegates were women. Two senior British officials (Robert Cooper and Paul Bergne) attended the Bonn meeting as observers.

  9.  The FCO opened the first national representation in Kabul after the withdrawal of the Taliban. The British Office is housed in part of our former Embassy premises and currently headed by the Head of the FCO's South Asian Department, Stephen Evans. Being on the ground, Mr Evans has been able to liaise directly with key Afghan political figures. Opening the office has also been an important signal to the Afghan people that political normality is returning to Afghanistan, and that the UK is committed to Afghanistan's future as a member of the international community.

  10.  A key part of the coalition's fight against terrorism has been ensuring that accurate information is available all over the world, especially in the light of Taleban and Al Qaida-inspired misinformation. Coalition Information Centres (CICs) have been established in London, Washington and Islamabad. They coordinate the coalition's public communications about the military, diplomatic and humanitarian aspects of the campaign against terrorism. The FCO has made a major contribution to all three CICs. The London CIC, led by the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy (Alistair Campbell), is housed within and partially staffed by the Foreign Office. A number of coalition partners are represented in the London CIC. The UK has representatives in the Washington and Islamabad CICs.

  11.  The FCO has established a dedicated Islamic Opinion Unit whose aim is to strengthen support among Muslims for the objectives of the campaign. The Unit draws on in-house expertise in Islamic affairs, culture and media. The strategy for conveying our message more effectively to an Islamic audience involves developing links with the key Islamic media services operating in the UK and overseas, providing them with FCO spokesmen able to conduct interviews in the relevant languages, and briefing third parties at one remove from government for additional media appearances. The Unit has also liaised with the print media over publication of interviews with and articles by Ministers and prominent Muslim figures in the UK in support of the coalition's aims. It has published and distributed leaflets in English, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and Turkish to explain the campaign objectives to a Muslim audience both overseas and within the UK. The Unit is working closely both with British missions overseas to add value to their public diplomacy efforts and with the Home Office on outreach to the Muslim community in the UK. We are sharing our experience with other coalition governments, to strengthen support for the campaign against terrorism more widely.

  12.  This crisis has shaken the international political kaleidoscope and opened up new opportunities, which we are seeking to develop. 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 a new role for Russia in Euro-Atlantic security and her relationship with NATO. The objective of this initiative is to involve Russia in a broad range of NATO activity and to create new structures which can increase Russia's sense of inclusion in the key European security institutions. The Prime Minister wrote on 15 November to Lord Robertson and NATO leaders proposing a relaunch of the NATO/Russia relationship (including replacing the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) with a new body) in which NATO would work together with Russia at 20 rather than at 19 + 1. We are also actively considering ideas for ensuring the further development of EU-Russia links. 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. The Foreign Secretary visited Islamabad on 22 and 23 November. Our Post in Islamabad is a key asset for contacts with Afghan parties and humanitarian agencies, as well as with the Government of Pakistan. Iran has closed its borders to stop terrorists escaping, though agreed to allow humanitarian assistance through. The UK is maintaining an active dialogue with Iran, and the Foreign Secretary has visited twice since 11 September.

  13.  The FCO, our Representation in Brussels and other Government departments have taken a leading role in the international effort to strengthen counter- terrorism measures worldwide. We are working closely with our EU partners. Successive meetings since 11 September of EU justice and home affairs ministers, foreign ministers and heads of government have agreed the principal elements of a plan of action against terrorism, including;

    —  an EU arrest warrant;

    —  a common definition of terrorist offences;

    —  a Framework Agreement on freezing assets and on evidence;

    —  increased co-operation between services responsible for fighting terrorism;

    —  the early ratification by all member states of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism; and a commitment to reinforcing national legislation against financing terrorism;

    —  implementation by all member states of UN Security Council Resolution 1373;

    —  reviewing relations with third countries in the light of their performance against terrorism; and

    —  approval of Commission proposals to improve air transport security.

  We are taking a leading role in pushing for progress on all these points at the European Council at Laeken on 14 and 15 December.

  14.  The UN has been the primary forum for building and consolidating global support for the war against terrorism. The UK Permanent Representative in New York, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, chairs the Counter Terrorism Committee set up under UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which meets weekly. It is now working to put in place measures to ensure that governments live up to their obligations to suppress terrorist financing and to deny terrorists a safe haven from which to operate. The key element of the Committee's work is to require governments to explain what they are doing in a number of specified areas, to ensure that their policies and practices live up to the requirements set out in UNSCR 1373. A secondary function may be to act as a switchboard to match up requests for and offers of help in the counter-terrorism field. Discussions also continue on the draft UN Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, although consensus has still to be reached.

  15.  The FCO, in cooperation with HM Treasury, have been particularly active in the G7 and G8, which are in various formats 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 the links between drugs and terrorism and on aviation and non-aviation security; and

    —  to promote cooperation between counter-terrorism, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

  16.  G8 counter terrorism experts met on 18-20 November to take forward work on these aspects and on other key aspects, notably:

    —  co-ordination of technical assistance to enable third countries to live up to their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373;

    —  preliminary assessment of the threat from chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear terrorism;

    —  enhanced contributions to ICAO's aviation security mechanism; and

    —  further co-operative work against false passports and documents.

  17.  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 playing a leading role in the Task Force's continuing work on new regulatory standards to combat the financing of terrorism.


  18.  The FCO works in support of DFID over humanitarian and reconstruction issues, where policy is evolving fast. An international conference in Washington on 20 November, attended by DFID and FCO, agreed to establish a Steering Group to co-ordinate policy on reconstruction efforts. The next step is a meeting in Brussels on 17 December in which the role of the Steering Group will be fleshed out and discussion pursued on how to take the process forward, including through liaison with the Afghan Support Group (a grouping of major donors, the UN and NGOs). Plans are already in place for a ministerial-level conference in Tokyo in early 2002 which DFID and the FCO will attend.

  19.  Increasing amounts of humanitarian assistance are now getting into Afghanistan. In the month to 16 November WFP reached its target of 52, 000 mt (an amount sufficient for 5 million people for one month). However, WFP have now increased their daily targets to 3000 mt to ensure that supplies are adequate and that stockpiles can be maintained. As of 30 November, this target was being met. WFP launched its first airbridge from Tajikistan to Afghanistan on 23 November. This should allow for 2000 mt to be delivered over the next few weeks. The availability of an aid corridor from the Uzbek border to Mazar-e-Sharif is essential to ensure that sufficient supplies reach the vulnerable eg in the Central Highlands. The FCO and its posts are working alongside the UN and others to facilitate the opening of the "Friendship Bridge" at Termez.

  20.  We welcome the Secretary General's appointment of UNDP as the agency designated to co-ordinate the international reconstruction effort. DFID have set aside £1 million to assist the work of Mr Brahimi and of the Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF, the UN body that draws together all strands of its work on Afghanistan). This donation will enable the IMTF to work with the Afghan diaspora, which contains a wealth of expertise essential for the reconstruction of the country. DFID are also supporting a proposal by the International Organisation for Migration to identify qualified Afghans in the diaspora. Separately, the FCO is considering projects for the future in areas such as drugs control, human and women's rights, police training, media support, support to local authorities/community organisations and demining.

  21.  This is only a small part of Britain's total contribution to the humanitarian effort. DFID has set aside £40 million for humanitarian responses to the current crisis. Nearly half of this has already been allocated to the UN, Red Cross and other agencies. This is on top of over £32 million of humanitarian assistance given since 1997. DFID has also set aside a further £11 million for the poorest communities in Pakistan, especially those most directly affected by the influx of refugees; and announced a £15million package to support continuing reforms and efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan. 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].


  22.  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 repeatedly made clear. The dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbours remains the most destabilising issue in the Middle East, and will fuel terrorism as long as it remains unresolved. Dissatisfaction with stalemate in the peace process is one of the factors which has, 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.

  23.  The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have welcomed the speech made by Colin Powell on 19 November, which set out the Bush Administration's approach to the MEPP. Secretary of State Powell outlined a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognised borders. He reaffirmed that the only path to such a goal is through negotiations on the basis of 'land for peace' covering the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks. He called on Israel to end settlement activity, and on the Palestinian Authority to end terror and arrest and punish the perpetrators of attacks.

  24.  We welcome the decision announced in Secretary of State Powell's speech to send US envoys to the region. Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns and Colin Powell's senior adviser, former General Anthony Zinni, started their mission on 27 November. They will attempt to assist the parties to implement both a cease-fire and the recommendations of the Mitchell report. We will work closely with the US, and with our EU partners, to reinvigorate the peace process and get it back on track.

  25.  We have called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to create the right environment, through their actions, for the success of US diplomatic efforts. Both parties must take all possible steps to end the violence, resume substantive dialogue immediately and bring about the swift and full implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which set out a road back to the negotiating table. Israel must lift closures. The Palestinian Authority must take concrete action to arrest and detain cease-fire violators.

  26.  In the longer-term our goal is a solution which embodies the two principles of Israeli security and a viable, sovereign and independent 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. Such an outcome would be a major contribution to regional stability. The characteristics of a viable Palestinian state might include a high degree of territorial contiguity, responsibility for internal security, and the development of a full range of institutions necessary for effective governance.

  27.  We have continued to urge the parties to work towards this goal. 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.

  28.  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.

  29.  We will maintain our efforts. 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.

  30.  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, the Foreign Secretary has met President Musharraf and spoken to his Indian and Pakistani counterparts on several occasions. There are encouraging signs that President Musharraf has begun to clamp down on Pakistani based Kashmiri militants and other pro-Taliban extremists. He has also unequivocally condemned the 1 October terrorist attack in Srinagar. Although there have been periodic exchanges of fire across the Line of Control, the Indian and Pakistani sides have exercised restraint. But a further terrorist outrage in Kashmir could seriously escalate tensions. We continue to urge both parties to return to dialogue, building on the July 2001 Agra Summit.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

3 December 2001

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