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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We encourage all states to ratify and implement the core international human rights conventions, including the Convention Against Torture and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to co-operate fully with UN and other human rights monitoring mechanisms.
In the Council of Europe it is a requirement that all new member states become party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes mandatory acceptance of the right of individual petition. The focus of our policy towards new member states is to encourage and assist them fully to meet their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and to respect the jurisdiction of the Court.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are not aware of any significant problems. The UK delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) report that the website has been functioning well and that they have regularly used it to access CHR documents.
Following complaints, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) set a deadline for submission of reports of 16 December 1998 to allow time for translation and distribution. Only those reports submitted later than this deadline have been
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The terms of reference for the comprehensive report to be proposed by the Secretary-General by 1 September 1999 are set out in paragraph 18 of General Assembly Resolution 53/35. It would be inappropriate for one member state to seek to change the guidance already provided collectively by the entire UN membership.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I refer my noble friend to the replies my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Lloyd) gave in another place to the honourable Member for Windsor (Mr. Trend) on 25 January 1999, Official Record, Commons, col. 149. Officials did not pass details of these calls to anyone outside the UK Government.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Rambouillet Accords were presented to both sides during the conference in February. They were not US proposals: they had been drafted in full consultation with all members of the Contact Group.
During the reconvened talks at the Kleber Centre in Paris, the Kosovo Albanian delegation, having completed the consultations to which it had committed itself at Rambouillet, signed the accords in their entirety. The FRY/Serbian delegation showed no such readiness.
NATO has clearly set out its conditions for a cessation of military action. Milosevic has to cease repression, withdraw army, police and paramilitary forces and agree to an international security force in Kosovo to give the refugees the confidence to return. NATO will suspend its action when Milosevic meets these conditions.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have been trying to keep in contact with all of the Kosovo Albanian delegation at Rambouillet and the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Hashim Thaqi of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to urge restraint.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 1160 all states are obliged to prevent the sale or supply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, of arms and related material, and arming or training for terrorist activities there. The Rambouillet Accords included provisions for the disarming of the UCK. The Contact Group has no firm evidence concerning the UCK's sources of weapons and training.
Baroness Amos: Since 24 March, the Department for International Development has already spent or committed about £8 million assistance to the Kosovo refugees, including over £1.5 million for air transportation and cargo, £16,000 for an airport handling package for Tirana and £400,000 for a truck convoy for Albania. We have to date agreed cash grants of £0.82 million to UN agencies and £3.274 million to NGOs and the Red Cross. Further expenditure and disbursements are currently being considered.
Baroness Amos: Regular discussions have taken place with NGOs and others over the last year on all aspects of humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, including security. We are not aware of any aid activity by British-based NGOs in Kosovo at present, and we believe it would be highly inadvisable for aid workers to return to Kosovo while the current security situation persists.
Baroness Amos: The Government have made a major contribution to international efforts to strengthen United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) capacity to deal with the outflow of refugees from Kosovo. We are funding a series of airlifts to enable UNHCR and other operational agencies to deploy personnel and relief supplies to the region; we have provided equipment and personnel, including a Department for International Development (DFID) operations manager, to set up a UNHCR airport logistic cell at Tirana airport; and we are putting a convoy of five trucks and drivers at the disposal of UNHCR in Albania. The humanitarian support offices which DFID is establishing in Skopje and Tirana will work closely with UNHCR and seek to identify further ways in which we can support their work.
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