Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report


(1)Given that the British Government believes that it is regarded by both Armenia and Azerbaijan as neutral and friendly, we recommend that it consider how it may best take forward the Minsk Group's work and contribute to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. (Paragraph 32)
(2)We welcome the British Government's involvement in resolving the conflict in Abkhazia and, while we recognise the great difficulties involved, we recommend that work towards a solution of a problem which threatens the security and integrity of the Georgian state should be a regional priority for British diplomacy. (Paragraph 40)
(3)In view of the continued threat to regional stability posed by the situation in Tajikistan, we recommend that the Government maintain its efforts to support the peace process in Tajikistan through the UN Security Council. (Paragraph 42)
(4)We recommend that the Government, working within the framework of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, make as its foremost arms sales policy consideration in the region the need to reduce the risk of armed conflicts between, or within, the states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia. (Paragraph 48)
(5)We recommend that in view of an actual threat to the United Kingdom from the trafficking of heroin and other opiates through Central Asia, the Government should reverse its decision not to post a full-time Drugs Liaison Officer to Tashkent, and work to strengthen its co-operation with the multilateral and national drugs control agencies operating in the region. (Paragraph 51)
(6)We urge the Government to ensure that EU programmes in the field of drug control in Central Asia are implemented in a timely and effective fashion. In particular, such programmes should not waste resources in duplicating efforts undertaken by other national or multilateral organisations. (Paragraph 53)
(7)We recommend that the Government use its best efforts to work with the governments of Central Asia to alleviate the severe difficulties of water management in the region, both in resolving disputes over resource allocation and in promoting the necessary technical assistance from British companies with expertise in the field. (Paragraph 56)
(8)We conclude that the Government's stated objective of supporting the independence, security and territorial integrity of the states of the region is well-founded. (Paragraph 59)
(9)We recommend that the British Government work within the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to achieve a suitable status within the Council for the countries of Central Asia which have undertaken to subscribe to its core values and which have made material progress in that direction. (Paragraph 72)
(10)We believe that conditionality is most effective when donors coordinate policies. We recommend that the Government should use its position within the EBRD to ensure that the EBRD does not spend money in countries which do not have programmes agreed with the IMF and World Bank. (Paragraph 84)
(11)We welcome the steps that have been taken within the OECD to mirror the US Corrupt Practices Act, and recommend that the Government should continue to take all possible steps to end corrupt practices in business, in order to create a level playing field internationally. (Paragraph 95)
(12)We support the Government's policy of multiple pipelines. We recommend that the Government should continue to use its best efforts to discourage the US Government from promoting particular pipeline routes, for purely political reasons, to the detriment of other more economic routes. (Paragraph 101)
(13)We recommend that the Government, working on its own, and in co-ordination with its EU partners and with the United States, should act to give a fresh impetus to the monitoring and promotion of human rights in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. (Paragraph 118)
(14)We recommend that the Government continue to emphasise that the achievement of high human rights standards is an essential element of any true partnership between the United Kingdom and the countries of the region. (Paragraph 119)
(15)We believe that urgent consideration should be given to the establishment and development of ASSIST programmes with states of the region wherever practicable. (Paragraph 123)
(16)We recommend that the Government review its funding and assistance to all organisations seeking to promote a properly-functioning civil society, where there is freedom of expression and freedom of the media, in the states of the region. (Paragraph 126)
(17)We expect that the Government's contacts with civil society in the region should include the fullest support possible for the activities of free trades unions and their work in the process of transition. (Paragraph 128)
(18)We recommend that the Government press the states of the region to comply fully with their obligations under those UN and ILO human rights instruments to which they are party. The monitoring of governments' compliance with these obligations should be a core responsibility of embassies in the region. (Paragraph 130)
(19)We applaud the work of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE in its promotion of standards of democracy throughout the region. We expect that the Government will continue to give ODIHR its fullest support. (Paragraph 132)
(20)We recommend that the Government should not seek to ratify any Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with the Republic of Turkmenistan without clear evidence of improvement in the observance of human rights. (Paragraph 135)
(21)We recommend that the Government work both bilaterally and with its European partners to ensure that the human rights elements of the EU's Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) are fully respected, and that pressure on those countries in the region with poor human rights records is maintained through the mechanisms established by the PCAs, to the extent that states which consistently fail to meet their obligations should have their PCAs suspended. We also recommend that the Government should ask its European partners to take a stronger position in future on securing actual progress on human rights before EU Partnership and Co-operation Agreements are entered into. (Paragraph 140)
(22)It is unacceptable for the EBRD to disregard its commitment to promoting development only in those countries which apply the principles of multiparty democracy and pluralism. As the United Kingdom is a major shareholder in the EBRD, and given the Government's commitment to introducing an ethical dimension into foreign policy, we recommend that the Government should ensure that the EBRD lives up to its commitment. The release of further funds by the EBRD should be made conditional upon improvements in the respect shown by governments of the region to multiparty democracy and pluralism. (Paragraph 142)
(23)We recommend that the FCO consider how to provide a programme of assistance to the parliaments of the region. (Paragraph 143)
(24)We believe the Government should take steps to encourage the OSCE to monitor the democratic functioning of parliamentary institutions in the states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia. (Paragraph 144)
(25)We recommend that the United Kingdom open an Embassy to the Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek. (Paragraph 152)
(26)We recommend as a first step that the FCO approach the German government about the possibility of creating a permanent British diplomatic presence in the German Embassy in Dushanbe. (Paragraph 153)
(27)We believe that for the present there is no need further to enhance representation in Turkmenistan. (Paragraph 154)
(28)We recommend that the FCO should ensure that the demands placed upon posts of the size of those in the region are regularly reviewed, and that they are no more than are absolutely necessary. (Paragraph 156)
(29)While we welcome the creation of new posts in the Embassies in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, we recommend that the FCO continue to monitor closely staffing levels in the region and the demands made upon staff. (Paragraph 158)
(30)The Committee recommends that the FCO review its Embassy buildings in the region and satisfy itself that each is an appropriate base both for its staff and for the United Kingdom's public diplomacy. (Paragraph 162)
(31)We recommend a more extensive programme of co-ordinated ministerial visits to the region. (Paragraph 164)
(32)We recommend that the British Council open offices in Yerevan, Bishkek and Astana, and give consideration to enhancing the work of the English Language Centre in Turkmenistan. In our earlier Report on FCO Resources we recommended an increase in British Council funding. We now recommend that increased funding should include the revenue and capital funding necessary to enable the Council to establish a properly-resourced and permanent presence in Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan. (Paragraph 178)
(33)We believe that in principle the BBC World Service should seek to ensure that World Service programming reaches as wide an audience as possible. To that end we recommend that the World Service establish services in Georgian and Armenian. (Paragraph 182)
(34)We recommend that the Government continue to press the Government of Uzbekistan to reinstate BBC World Service access to medium wave transmitting facilities. (Paragraph 183)
(35)We believe that it is important that World Service programming be as widely received as possible. We recommend that the Government work with the World Service to seek to lift broadcasting restrictions where they exist. We also recommend that the World Service seek to work as closely as possible with Embassies throughout the region in order to secure adequate rebroadcasting facilities. (Paragraph 185)
(36)The countries covered by our report have been facing traumatic change, which has amounted to nothing less than a revolution in their civil, political and economic structures. As we argue, it is a major Western interest to help to establish regional stability and to resolve some of the long outstanding conflicts. We found in a number of the countries visited a particular wish to develop stronger bilateral relations with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is looked upon as a nation with strongly rooted traditions in democracy and in a civil society upholding human rights, the rule of law and individual liberty. We have a clear role to promote such values and practices within the region. We have identified diplomatic, commercial and cultural opportunities which would give a greater meaning to our relations with the countries of the region. They are opportunities we would be foolish to spurn. We welcome the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's efforts to date, but conclude that more could and should be done to promote Britain's interests, good governance and stability in a region that will be of increasing significance in the years ahead. (Paragraph 187)

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Prepared 27 July 1999