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On Agenda 2000, President Santer presented the draft regulations published on 18 March. The Foreign Secretary outlined UK Presidency plans for handling the Agenda 2000 package before Cardiff. The 27 April General Affairs Council will consider the proposals in more detail.
The Council discussed the Middle East Peace Process and endorsed the approach which the President of the Council adopted during his visit to the region. Ministers looked forward to the visit of Mr. Blair in April. The Council agreed to the publication of the Executive Summary of the Settlements Watch for the period September to December 1997, drawn up by EU Missions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Council
The Council had a further discussion on the enhancement of political contracts with Iran and agreed that the EU should renew dialogue with Iran on the basis of the 23 February General Affairs Council Conclusions--that is to say, a comprehensive dialogue covering both areas of mutual interest and of concern. The Council invited the Presidency to liaise with the Iranian government over the arrangements for the first meeting.
There was support from within the EU for the contact group stance on Kosovo. Partners were clear that the key is for Belgrade to open an effective dialogue on the status of Kosovo with the Albanian community. The Council also reaffirmed its view that Croatia must do more to comply with its international obligations.
The Council considered a Presidency report on the progress made in preparing a draft mandate for negotiations of a successor to the Lome Convention. Discussion focused on the trade issues. It was agreed that the ultimate objective should be the progressive integration of ACP states into the world economy and their full participation in a liberalised trading system. Further work was needed on the new trade arrangements, which should at least maintain current market access for the ACP and be WTO-compatible. The trade regime for Least Developed Countries should be improved in accordance with Council Conclusions of 2 June 1997.
The Commission reported on the state of negotiations with South Africa on a Trade and Co-operation Agreement. The Council noted the progress made at the last negotiating round in March and expressed the wish to complete negotiations soon. The Council invited the Commission to report back after the next negotiating round this month.
The Council took note of a presentation by Sir Leon Brittan of the Commission's Communication on the New Transatlantic Marketplace. COREPER will examine the Communication and report to a future meeting of the General Affairs Council.
The Presidency reported on the state of preparations for the second Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 2) to be held in London on 3-4 April. The Presidency also informed partners of preparations for the first EU/China Summit, which will be held on 2 April.
The General Affairs Council agreed, based on a UK Presidency paper, that the new CFSP Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit should concentrate on forward planning, including crisis prediction and policy planning aspects of conflict prevention; and produce policy options for decision by Member States in the Council. Provision has been made for a staff of up to 20, most of whom will be secondees from Member State Foreign
The Council agreed that Ministers representing Troika should visit the Great Lakes region to assess the current situation and discuss with regional leaders the contribution the EU can make. The Council agreed a new common position on Rwanda setting out the criteria on which the EU will base the major contribution it makes to international support for reconstruction and reconciliation in Rwanda. The Council reiterated EU support for efforts by regional states neighbouring Burundi to promote political dialogue. Such a dialogue is the only basis for achieving a durable solution to Burundi's problems.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We welcome the news of any country ratifying the core human rights instruments. The recent ratification of the Convention Against Torture by the State of Bahrain is to be welcomed. We look forward to continued improvements in human rights in Bahrain. We have indicated to the Government of Bahrain that we will assist them, in whatever way possible, to achieve this objective.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no plans to initiate a resolution on Bahrain at this year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. We urge all countries to observe the due process of law and to comply with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Bahrain is a party to this
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We urge all countries to observe the due process of law and to comply with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain is a party. Bahrain has assured us that parents are advised of the whereabouts of, and are granted access to, any children detained in custody.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have reiterated to the Bahraini authorities, both through our Ambassador in Bahrain and our Mission in Geneva, that we expect the Bahrain Government, as we do others, to respect the independence of lawyers and the judiciary.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Embassy in Bahrain has not submitted formal requests to visit members of the opposition who have been detained for over two years without charge. It is through our bilateral contacts with Bahrain that we feel that we have the best opportunities to address constructively human rights issues.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We will not issue an export licence if there is a clearly identifiable risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression.
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