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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have been closely monitoring press reports of incursions by Turkish troops into northern Iraq. The Foreign Affairs Ministry in Ankara has denied that there have been any recent cross border operations in Iraq. This is corroborated by other contacts in Ankara, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party. We will continue to closely monitor developments.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are deeply concerned about the Zimbabwean economy. We have looked at the Government's millennium recovery plan. We have consistently encouraged the Government of Zimbabwe to implement economic reform.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: President Mugabe has assured us that the elections will take place within the time allowed under the constitution. Under the constitution a state of emergency has to be ratified by Parliament within 14 days. As the Zimbabwean Parliament has been dissolved, any state of emergency would last up to 14 days.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We deplore all violence, including that resulting from farm occupations and police action against peaceful demonstrations. We have urged the Government of Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law and put an end to the illegal farm occupations.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Under Protocol 11 to the European Convention on Human Rights, sitting judges in the European Court of Human Rights may be candidates for re-election when their term expires. The process of election set out in the convention requires the government of each state party to put forward three candidates. Election is a matter for the Parliamentary Assembly.
The process of interviews with candidates, instituted by the Assembly for the first elections to the new Court, is the means by which the Assembly seeks to ensure that its choice between the candidates is an informed one. In the Government's view it would not be fair to other candidates if sitting judges alone were exempt from the interview requirement. Nor can it see any inherent conflict between such interviews and the principle of judicial independence. Nevertheless there could clearly be dangers for that principle if, for example, questioning to a sitting judge focused upon that judge's record in decided or pending cases.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The FCO's current travel advice for British nationals reads: "Most visits to Zimbabwe are still trouble free, and tourist areas have been unaffected by the recent political violence. But all British nationals resident in Zimbabwe or visiting should exercise caution. We recommend against visiting commercial farms and against venturing off the main road between urban centres. Do not travel at night. And avoid any political gatherings".
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This is a conference of Speakers of Parliaments, taking place on the invitation of the Speaker of the People's Assembly of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Her Majesty's Government have not been invited and have not been sent an agenda.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The mandate of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe gives him a broad measure of independence and freedom of initiative, necessary for his sensitive and delicate work. His work schedule is a matter for him to decide.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Hague recommendations regarding the education rights of national minorities (1996) and the Oslo recommendations regarding the linguistic rights of national minorities (1998) were drawn up, at the request of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, at a series of experts' meetings convened by the Foundation of Inter-Ethnic relations, a non-governmental organisation. As such they are not legally binding on OSCE member states. The High Commissioner's approach is to employ the international standards to which each state has agreed as his principal framework of analysis and the foundation for his specific recommendations.
Her Majesty's Government fully support the work of the High Commissioner. Turkey's international human rights obligations are a key part of the dialogue which the Government maintain with the Turkish Government bilaterally and in the preparations of Turkey's European Union accession partnership.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We were appalled by the massacre of Sikhs on 20 March. Violence will never bring a solution to the situation in Kashmir. We welcome the state authorities' decision to launch a judicial inquiry into the massacre. We look forward to seeing the results of the inquiry.
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