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The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): While at the UN, I spoke to the full Assembly on 11 November and subsequently at two Security Council meetings. I also held a number of meetings with Foreign Ministers, the UN Secretary-General and the Secretary-General's special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Mrs. Williams: In future discussions, will my right hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that full consideration is given to the women in Afghanistan, so that they are fully involved in international talks about a new Government; that the restoration of the rights of Afghan women is a high priority; and that boys and girls receive equal treatment when schools reopen?
Mr. Straw: Yes. The oppression of women was one of the most terrible aspects of the Taliban regime. All parties to the Bonn discussions are committed to restoring rights for women and I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that three of the 28 delegates due to attend are women. That is not enough, but the proportion is greater than that of women MPs representing the Conservative party.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): Following President Bush's comments yesterday, will the Secretary of State please tell the House what discussions he had at the UN about UN weapons inspections in Iraq? What information do the Government have about the situation there in respect of the production of weapons of mass destruction?
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): Has my right hon. Friend seen the recent press reports about the upsurge in poppy field planting in Afghanistan in recent weeks? Will he enlist the support of
Mr. Straw: I certainly will, and I have done so already. A key part of restoring the rule of law in Afghanistan is the eradication of poppy cultivation and the heroin trade. That forms a central part of all the discussions in which we are engaged.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Is it the intention of the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Government, that the major part of the planning for the overall reconstruction of Afghanistan be conducted through the UN, or does he envisage it being conducted through other organisations?
Mr. Straw: Overall supervision of the reconstruction of Afghanistan must be conducted under the aegis of the UN, providing the framework and umbrella for discussions. Of course, a great deal of action will be taken multilaterally and bilaterally to support Afghanistan. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is already in the vanguard in ensuring that there is additional support for Afghanistan and for Pakistan and Iran.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the definition of terrorism in part I of the Terrorism Act 2000, which refers to the use of violence to intimidate the public for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
Ms King: Does my hon. Friend agree that any definition of terrorism must include the deliberate targeting of civilians? Does that not have implications for state activity that might fall within the definition? In the middle east, for example, while Hamas is obviously a terrorist organisation, is it not chilling that an Israeli tribunal has found Ariel Sharon responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians? Can we look forward to a more consistent application of the definition post- 11 September?
Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend might reflect on the fact that when acts committed other than by non-state organisations are then condemned by tribunals and public opinion, that shows democracy at work. We are now talking about terrorism in 2001. We are talking about non-state organisations that commit wicked, godless crimes to intimidate people and destroy civilian life for political ends. That is unacceptable, and that is what we should concentrate on fighting.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The UK remains engaged, with its EU partners and the US, in efforts to reinvigorate the middle east peace process. I particularly welcomed United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech last week, which set out the US Administration's vision of a comprehensive settlement, and the arrival of the two US envoys Bill Burns and General Zinni in the region yesterday. That represents an important opportunity for the process to be taken forward.
Roger Casale: My hon. Friend will know that the historical record demands, as recent events dictate, that Britain and Europe show leadership, along with the United States, in the century-long search for lasting peace and stability in the middle east. We failed after the first world war and the break-up of the Ottoman empire; we failed after the second world war; and we failed after the Gulf crisis, despite the promise of the Mitchell report and the Oslo accord. Does my hon. Friend agree that only a just settlement can produce lasting peace in the middle east, and that in order to be just, the settlement must take account of the legitimate claims of all the historic peoples of the middle east?
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Does not Israeli Foreign Minister Peres's statement that there is now broad agreement that a Palestinian state should be created represent a significant step towards a middle east peace settlement?
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): If we are to promote a just settlement in the middle east, is it not important for us to demonstrate consistency in our application of international law? Must we not continue to say that Israeli settlements are illegal? Should we not also say, as a European Union, that we would object to Israel's exporting goods from illegal settlements to the EU on the pretext that they were made in Israel?
Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. We are making progress in regard to imports from illegal settlements. Moreover, as my hon. Friend suggests, we continue to remind the Israelis that the settlements are illegal. In the end they will have to be dismantled. Their continuing growth does absolutely nothing to further the cause of peace in the middle east.
Tom Brake: I welcome the Minister's response and the progress that is being made on accession. On Cyprus, will the Minister confirm that he agrees with Gunter Verheugen, the European Commissioner with responsibility for enlargement, that our strategic goal is to take a united Cyprus as a new member, and that reaching that goal requires constructive and substantial progress towards a lasting solution? What does he think constitutes substantial and constructive progress?
Peter Hain: I confirm that we strongly endorse the European objective of accepting a united island into the European Union as part of the enlargement process. The Cypriots want to join. If the island were not united, we would still accept Cyprus's entrance to the European Union. We would not allow anyone to veto that provided that the Cypriots had completed the full process of negotiation and closed all the chapters. Currently they are in the lead among all the applicant countries in doing so.