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Indonesia

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Indonesian Government concerning the continuing forced conversion of Christians to Islam in the Moluccas. [150203]

Mr. Battle: We are deeply concerned by recent reports of attempts to force Christians to convert to Islam in Maluku and our ambassador has raised this with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta.

Both the Secretary of State for International Development and I visited Indonesia in October 2000 and discussed the situation in Maluku with President Wahid and senior Ministers. We urged tolerance and restraint and made clear to them the Indonesian Government's responsibility to maintain law and order and take immediate steps to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice. I also discussed events with Alwi Shihab, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, in the margins of the EU-ASEAN meeting in Vientiane on 12 December.

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Indonesian Government about attacks on Christians. [150103]

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Mr. Battle: We continue to urge the Indonesian Government to exercise tolerance and restraint and remind them of their responsibility to maintain law and order and to take immediate steps to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.

Both the Secretary of State for International Development and I visited Indonesia in October 2000 and discussed the situation in Maluku with President Wahid and senior Ministers. We urged tolerance and restraint and made clear to them the Indonesian Government's responsibility to maintain law and order and take immediate steps to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice. I also discussed events with Alwi Shihab, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, in the margins of the EU-ASEAN meeting in Vientiane on 12 December.

Qualified Majority Voting

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason the Government supported the provisions in the treaty of Nice relating to the extension of qualified majority voting. [150194]

Mr. Vaz: The decision to agree to qualified majority voting was made on a case-by-case basis. The Government agreed to majority voting where this will be of benefit to Britain and where it promotes efficient decision making in the institutions of the EU. But the Government made it clear before the Nice European Council that they would insist on unanimity in areas of overriding national interest, such as taxation, social security, defence, treaty change and own resources.

Embassies

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the benefits of sharing premises used as embassies with other EU member states. [150196]

Mr. Battle: Since 1992, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has actively pursued opportunities to share embassy premises with out EU partners. We are already co-located with EU partners in Almaty, Lima, Minsk, Quito and Reykjavik and are in the construction phase of a major co-location project in Dar es Salaam. A further four possible sites for co-location are also currently under consideration.

Panikos Tsiakourmas

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made on the case of Mr. Panikos Tsiakourmas, a Greek Cypriot; and if he will make a statement. [150394]

Mr. Vaz: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has sent messages to both Mr. Denktash and Turkish Foreign Minister Cem about the circumstances of Mr. Tsiakourmas' arrest, emphasising the importance we attach to a resolution of this very serious matter. Our high commissioner in Nicosia also continues to make strong and regular representations to Mr. Denktash. We will continue to pursue this matter until it is resolved satisfactorily.

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Nice Treaty

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what powers under the treaty of Nice exist to enable a member state of the European Union to have its voting rights forfeited. [150116]

Mr. Vaz [holding answer 13 February 2001]: There are no new powers in the treaty of Nice that provide for the suspension of voting rights.

Article 7 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, amending the treaty on European Union, introduced the possibility for the Council to suspend certain rights under that treaty, including voting rights, where a member state is found to have seriously and persistently breached the founding principles of the Union set out in article 6 (1). The treaty of Nice amends article 7 TEU to introduce an early warning mechanism where there is a clear risk of those principles being breached. This mechanism allows for the Council to make recommendations to be made to the member state concerned, having listened to its views.

UN Education Rapporteur

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 2 February 2001, Official Report, column 357W, on the UN special rapporteur on right to education, if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 7 February. [150384]

Mr. Battle: The UN special rapporteur on the right to education was due to meet with my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards and the Minister of State, Home Office on 7 February to discuss the report of her previous visit in 1999.

Unfortunately, the special rapporteur was unable to travel from Sweden to the UK due to adverse weather conditions. We are in contact with her office with a view to her visiting the UK at a later date.

Congo

Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the nature and extent of the continuing violence in the region of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and what representations he has made to the Government of Uganda about its responsibility for restoring peace to that region. [150471]

Mr. Wilson: We have received distressing reports about continuing inter-ethnic violence in and around Bunia. The conflict is complex, but seen by many as a violent extension of the local administration's inability to manage long-standing tensions between communities in the province. There are also accusations that the Ugandan forces, who effectively control eastern DRC, have been guilty of failing to prevent the violence. In some cases, Ugandan officers have been accused of participating in the killings.

Tension remains high, and humanitarian agencies have moved their staff to Bunia town for safety. Humanitarian access in the rest of the region is extremely difficult.

From the first reports of killings last year, our high commissioner in Kampala maintained a close dialogue with the Ugandan Government and army command. He

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urged them to restore calm in the region and to defuse the situation, ensure humanitarian access, and check any action by the Ugandan army that may be contributing to the conflict. We continue to monitor the situation closely and remain in close contact with humanitarian NGOs working in the region. In addition to bilateral contacts, we maintain close contact with the UN on these issues.

Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Rwandan Government about the involvement of their armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [150469]

Mr. Wilson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development met President Kagame on 28 January. She encouraged him to seize the opportunity to move the Lusaka peace process forward. The UK permanent representative to the United Nations in New York also encouraged President Kagame to ensure Rwandan participation in the forthcoming meetings of signatories to the Lusaka agreement (12 and 15 March) during bilateral discussions in New York on 7 February, and urged him to engage in further dialogue with the other parties.

Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 23 January 2001, Official Report, column 557W, and his answer to the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) of 24 January 2001, Official Report, column 593W, what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to encourage dialogue between the parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [150467]

Mr. Wilson: The Secretary of State's special representative for the Great Lakes and the UK permanent representative to the United Nations met President Kabila in New York on 2 February. They assured him of Britain's readiness to help, including through contacts with other parties to the conflict, and urged him to show the political will to make real progress on implementing the Lusaka agreement. Our ambassador in Kinshasa has spoken similarly to the Congolese Foreign Minister. We have taken similar action with all the other parties to the conflict in recent weeks. We have also been working with our UN, EU and African partners on moving the peace process forward.


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