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12 Jul 1999 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 12th July, 1999.

Gibraltar Airport

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the potential of Gibraltar airport, what consideration they are giving to ways in which it can be commercially exploited to a greater extent.[HL3396]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Gibraltar airfield is owned by the Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for flight operations control for the airport. But equipment and operations control for passenger and baggage handling and encouraging the development of civilian air services are the responsibility of the Government of Gibraltar, in consultation with the MoD.

Improved air links are a high priority for the Government of Gibraltar. We understand that they are keen to develop new routes and increase the number of flights. Ultimately it is up to the commercial judgment of the airlines which routes they wish to serve.

An agreement with Spain on joint use and development of Gibraltar airport would be of major benefit to Gibraltar's economy. We would like all parties to look afresh at the issue in the hope of finding a way forward acceptable to all sides. But the difficulties should not be underestimated.

Serbs: Definition

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Serbs are to be defined in the context of the slogan "Serbs out, NATO in, refugees back" used by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.[HL3049]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In this context, Serbs are defined as all FRY and Serb military, paramilitary and police forces.

KLA

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What status they accord to the Kosovo Liberation Army; whether they have any arrangements with this irregular military force, like that reached by US Secretary of State Albright in February at Rambouillet; and, if so, whether US and UK policy to convert the KLA into the police force of Kosovo as proposed by Mrs. Albright in February is a NATO policy approved by council consensus or a policy particular to the US and the UK governments.[HL3194]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have not accorded any particular status to the KLA. Nor are we

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aware of any arrangements between the KLA and the US Secretary of State of the kind mentioned. The key arrangement concerning the KLA is the undertaking to demilitarise signed by Hashim Thaqi as KLA commander in chief on 21 June. KLA aspirations that individual members participate in the police force in Kosovo and that a national guard be formed are just that. They have not been agreed by NATO.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What status or legitimacy within Kosovo the Kosovo Liberation Army has; and how this compares with the unofficially elected government of Mr. Rugova.[HL3195]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The KLA does not have any particular status within Kosovo. There are several political groupings in Kosovo which have their own views of their status and legitimacy. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is to pursue contacts with all groupings ready to contribute positively to building Kosovo's future.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discussed their support for the Kosovo Liberation Army with the Government of Albania, in view of that Government's concern over armed structures operating outside state control in three Kosovo Liberation Army training camps in Albania; and whether they have informed the Albanian Government of the purposes of the 300 hectare NATO military base being built at Kurjan, also in Albania.[HL3196]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have not offered any support to the KLA. We are not aware of a NATO base at Kurjan.

KFOR

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the degree of control so far exercised by KFOR in Mitrovica and other places; and what improvements they foresee.[HL3413]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: KFOR is tasked with providing robust and even-handed protection for everyone in Kosovo. About 70 criminals have been detained by KFOR. We continue to press for full deployment of KFOR troops and an international civilian police force to Kosovo to ensure adequate security coverage throughout Kosovo.

Kosovo: Interim Administration

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect that the Allied Commander in Kosovo will have a police force of 3,000 at his disposal, as was originally agreed.[HL3412]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It was agreed at the Friends of the UN Secretary-General for Kosovo meeting in New York on 30 June that the United

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Nations Mission in Kosovo should acquire the capacity to take over responsibility for policing from KFOR as soon as possible. The UN has already deployed an advance party of police officers to Kosovo to establish a headquarters and to liaise with KFOR. It is expected that the main component of the UN police force will start to deploy from the middle of July. As of 1 July, 2,400 police had been pledged to the United Nations out of the total 3,110 required. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has pledged up to 60 British police officers to recruit, train and monitor a civil police force in Kosovo.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask for the earliest possible appointment of the head of the United Nations interim administration in Kosovo; and whether this person will be located in the same building as the military commander.[HL3414]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 2 July the UN Secretary-General appointed M. Bernard Kouchner as his Special Representative to head the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), replacing Sr. Sergio Viera de Mello, who headed the mission while a permanent Special Representative was being sought.

Although M. Kouchner will not be located in the same building as the Commander of KFOR, both men are tasked by UNSCR 1244 to ensure that UNMIK and KFOR operate towards the same goals and in a mutually supportive manner.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that KFOR in Kosovo is effectively protecting the religious buildings of all faiths and churches, as symbols of communal identity, from damage.[HL3435]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: KFOR is tasked with providing robust and even-handed protection for everyone in Kosovo. KFOR is doing all it can to protect the buildings of all faiths and churches in Kosovo.

Burma: British Council Teaching

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy concerning the teaching of English by the British Council to the local employees of British oil companies in Burma.[HL3378]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Council is doing excellent work in Burma. Its programme of English teaching reaches ordinary Burmese people from all walks of life, including many who would otherwise not have a chance to learn the language. The council's aim is to open up educational opportunities and act as a source of uncensored news and information to those who would not otherwise have access to them. There is no policy to exclude employees of British companies from the council's services.

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Iraq: UNSCOM Laboratories

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their position on the disposal of mustard gas and VX which were found in the premises of the United Nations Special Commission on its departure from Iraq.[HL3343]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 25 May, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler recommended to the United Nations Secretary-General that an UNSCOM team return to Baghdad to close down UNSCOM's chemical and biological laboratories. He advised that when UNSCOM evacuated Iraq in December minute quantities of certain chemical warfare agents used for calibrating equipment had been left in the laboratories, together with 1 kg of mustard gas extracted from Iraqi artillery shells and awaiting destruction. All chemicals had been left in safe containment. There were no immediate safety concerns, but UNSCOM's longer than expected absence from its premises made it prudent to act now.

Iraq refuses to allow any UNSCOM experts back into the country. The Secretary-General is attempting to find an acceptable way forward. The UK supports his efforts.

Agent Orange

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 16 June (WA 24), whether they will reconsider their decision not to assist the Vietnamese Government in obtaining scientifically sound data on the use of Agent Orange, given that any compensation secured by the Vietnamese Government could help alleviate poverty and ill health in Vietnam.[HL3381]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We believe that the issue of compensation for the after-effects of Agent Orange is a bilateral one between the governments of Vietnam and the United States. The two governments reiterated in 1998 their agreement to co-operate over scientific exchanges and research into Agent Orange.


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