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10 May 1999 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Monday, 10th May 1999.

Israel

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What sanctions would be the most appropriate and effective response to any breaches of international law and agreements by Israel and any disregard by Israel of United Nations resolutions.[HL2186]

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.

Sudan

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement of the Prime Minister on 2 September 1998 (H.C. Deb., Cols. 708-09), whether they will automatically endorse any military attack by the United States against Sudan in the future.[HL2196]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Prime Minister has made clear on a number of occasions his reasons for supporting the US action last August.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance they are giving to Sudan to aid its preparations for the internationally-supervised referendum on the status of southern Sudan as envisaged in the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement.[HL2197]

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.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 14 December 1998 (WA 133), whether the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, or any other of the sources used by Her Majesty's Government, has figures detailing the carrying out of hudud punishments in the Sudan in the 10 years prior to 1989 compared with the past nine years.[HL2198]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We do not have such records. So far as we are aware, nor does the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the human rights situation in Sudan; and what has been the effect on human rights there of British and European Union policy.[HL2200]

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.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the August 1998 bombing by the American Government of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, has been discussed in the European Common Foreign and Security Policy working groups on non-proliferation, the Middle East/Gulf, Security, Africa and Global Disarmament.[HL2242]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are not aware of any formal discussion of the issue in any of the relevant working groups.

Kosovo Liberation Army

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are confident that none of the reports of the Kosovo Liberation Army's association with the drug trade is soundly based; and whether this is the view of the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Kingdom and other European police forces.[HL2226]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We will take fully into account information available from the International Narcotics Control Board and police forces concerned in monitoring developments.

Turkey and Northern Iraq

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have, as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, of a notification by Turkey under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter of the entry into northern Iraq by Turkish forces; on what date the Turkish forces crossed the frontier; and on what date Turkey notified the Security Council.[HL2248]

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.

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Burma

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the political situation in Burma has deteriorated since the beginning of the year.[HL2260]

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.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have responded to the recent calls by Aung San Suu Kyi for "concrete action" with regard to Burma.[HL2261]

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.

Former Yugoslavia: Refugees

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many refugees there are in the former Yugoslavia; what is (a) their official nationality and (b) their religion and/or ethnic origin; from where they have been expelled, and by whom; and whether it is NATO's intention that they should all be helped and escorted to return to their ancestral homes; and if so, at whose expense.[HL2222]

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.

Palestinian Authority: EU Aid

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual amount of aid from the European Union to the Palestinian authority; how much is provided by the United Kingdom; and

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    whether the aid is properly, honestly and efficiently administered.[HL2254]

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.

Hurricane Mitch: EU Aid

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether safeguards attached to European Union aid to the victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America will ensure that such aid reaches the victims rather than fraudsters and racketeers.[HL2253]

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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