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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The United Nations Security Council only imposes sanctions in cases where it judges that the possibility of influencing a government's internationally unacceptable behaviour through the normal channels of dialogue and diplomacy has been exhausted and that further pressure is necessary. Dialogue exists with Israel, both at the UN and in international fora, including the Middle East peace process negotiations.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Agreement on when a referendum on self-determination should take place has not yet been reached by the parties. Peace in the Sudan remains one of our priorities, although our ability to act is limited by the fact that we have not yet been able to return staff to Khartoum permanently.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A consensus resolution on Sudan was agreed at this year's Commission on Human Rights expressing deep concern at continuing serious violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms and relevant provisions of international humanitarian law perpetrated by all parties to the present conflict in Sudan.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Reports suggest that Turkish troops carried out operations against the PKK inside northern Iraq between 4 and 9 April. There was no notification to the Security Council about these operations.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The political situation in Burma remains deplorable. Despite the release of two prominent political prisoners earlier this year, large numbers of political prisoners are still in detention. Ethnic minorities continue to seek refuge in Thailand. We support the efforts of the UN Secretary General's envoy, Alvaro de Soto, to discharge his good offices role and encourage improvements in the political situation.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We take all opportunities to deplore the Burmese regime's disregard for human rights and democracy. We supported the renewal of the EU Common Position on 26 April; we worked with EU Partners on the UN Commission on Human Rights resolution adopted on 23 April; and we are working with interested parties to co-ordinate action in the International Labour Organisation based on the regime's response to ILO recommendations to stop forced labour in Burma.
Baroness Amos: There are currently some 1.8 million refugees and displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia. In addition there may be between 350,000 to 800,000 displaced within Kosovo. It is difficult to be precise about nationality, ethnicity or religious background. It is the aim of the international community enshrined in the Dayton Peace Agreement that all those who wish to return to their homes should be able to do so. Many have done so, often with international assistance, but many still of those who wish to return have not yet been able to do so.
Baroness Amos: The European Union, including individual member states, has made a major contribution to supporting the Middle East Peace Process by providing 54 per cent. (approximately £1 billion) of total development assistance to the Palestinians from 1993-98, an average of some £210 million a year.
Over the same period, the UK has spent some £141 million on development assistance for the Palestinians, £78 million of which has been in contributions to the EC programme. This represents an average contribution of £28 million a year.
We maintain regular links with EC officials in Brussels and the West Bank and Gaza and participate in the Maghreb/Mashreq Working Group at which policy towards EC projects for the Palestinian authority is discussed. To enable member states to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of EC aid we have pressed for an evaluation of the EC's last five-year programme of assistance for the Palestinians, which ended in December 1998. We understand that this evaluation was recently finalised, and expect to receive a copy of the findings shortly. We will place a copy in the Library of the House.
Baroness Amos: Specific decisions on fighting EU fraud are a matter for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, the findings of the 15 March report of lack of responsibility and accountability in the Commission's handling of external aid spending--in the Mediterranean, in emergency aid and in nuclear safety in Eastern Europe--give me great concern. I welcome the report and the shake-up it has triggered. Member states can and must now ensure that fraud and weak controls are rooted out and EC funds spent properly and effectively on development and other programmes.
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