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Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): May I commend the Foreign Secretary, and the International Development Secretary, on the tremendous work that they are doing in relation to Sudan, compared with the previous Government's abject dereliction of duty in relation to Rwanda? In relation to the Foreign Secretary's preliminary remarks about the tragic events in Russia, will the Government examine the serious implications that they may have for security in the United Kingdom, and will they consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) described earlier as the common threads between events in Russia, Iraq and, perhaps, the Sudan that threaten us all?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks and he is right to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, and all his staff, here and in the field. Our two Departments have been working together extremely closely to produce a higher level of effort by the British Government than by any comparable Government. We are proud to do that, but we also regard it as our duty.

On worldwide terrorism, it goes without saying that we are already seeking to learn the necessary lessons from the terrible atrocities that took place in Beslan last Friday.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): May I endorse the remarks about giving help in both Beslan and Sudan made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle)? In view of the Foreign Secretary's last remarks, can he assure the House that, although the Dutch hold the presidency of the European Union, the insensitive and intemperate remarks of the Dutch Foreign Minister are not endorsed by the British Government?

Mr. Straw: The Foreign Minister of the Netherlands has already explained the circumstances in which he came to make those remarks. I think that he explained that they were made ex cathedra and did not reflect the discussion that took place among European Foreign Ministers. I have set out our position this afternoon and on the radio yesterday. I believe that we must stand absolutely firmly with the Government and people of Russia, and—as I have said—not allow any excuse for what happened in Beslan.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. For understandable reasons, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the situation in Russia at the beginning of his remarks, but it ought not to be taken up generally, because the statement is essentially about Sudan.
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Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a balanced and entirely sensible approach to a complicated issue. I urge him to continue setting that issue in the context of a tremendous diplomatic effort by the Government to help all parties to reach a comprehensive peace agreement across Sudan. As one who also visited Sudan recently, may I ask whether he is aware that many thousands throughout the country are now enjoying peace for the first time in 21 years? Does he agree that, in the attempt to deal with the desperate humanitarian situation in Darfur, it is essential that no encouragement whatever be given to the militias, rebel groups and special interests that would seek to undermine the comprehensive peace agreement that is now so close?

Mr. Straw: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and commend his work as chairman of the all-party Sudan group over many years. He is absolutely right: the only future for the people of Sudan—as elsewhere throughout the world—is through politics and the putting aside of violence.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): This should be set in context. It is arguable that more people—men, women and children—are dying in Sudan every few days than died in one day of terror in Russia last week. That is not to belittle the terror of the latter event, but to highlight the enormity of the former. It means that every few days that the United Nations does not enforce sanctions, every few days that the African Union does not take action, every few days that the United Kingdom Government do not—as was suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)—provide support in terms of communications, more men, women and children will die. The United Nations is beginning to acquire a well-earned reputation for procrastination. When will the Foreign Secretary take some action?

Mr. Straw: I have just spelt out the action that we have taken. I understand the hon. Gentleman's impatience: I share it, and his frustration about our inability to do all that we would wish to, because of the atrocities and deaths that are plainly taking place. However, I do not think that much purpose is served by his thrashing around demanding action that we have already taken, or action that we have offered which requires the agreement of other people.

We have done virtually everything in our power. We are the largest cash aid donor, second only to the United States in terms of overall value. We have been hugely involved in facilitating the peace process in Naivasha, which we hope will have good results. We are also working very hard with the African Union. The hon. Gentleman mentioned communications equipment. We have provided the money for the African Union. When I was in el-Fasher two weeks ago, the problem was not our provision of money for communications equipment, but bureaucratic difficulties that we are now trying to sort out but which are quite outwith the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government.

As I have said, I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration. If he has constructive proposals to make, I will of course—as ever—take them on board, from wherever they come. But given what we are doing, it is
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wrong to suggest that we in the United Kingdom—the people, the Government or Parliament—are in any way evading our responsibilities, because we are not. We are fulfilling them, and we are also trying to get others to fulfil theirs; that is the crucial point. I understand some of the hon. Gentleman's frustrations with the international community, but if people want us to work through the United Nations—as I do—that is what we must do. Sometimes it takes longer than we would wish, but it is the only international organisation available to us with the legitimacy and power to enforce what we want to happen.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to rule out simplistic causes of the conflict in Sudan and he is even more right to avoid considering pre-emptive intervention, which is potentially very dangerous. Indeed, we must be honest: it is simply undeliverable. Does he agree that we should consider issues such as environmental changes in that part of Africa, particularly desertification, which is one reason why the nomads have moved? Of course, that does not excuse the behaviour of the Janjaweed, and we must also consider the question of resources. One strong argument for the action taken by the Sudan Liberation Army is that it is trying to get in on the back of the north-south peace settlement to make sure that it has resources. What we need is a sustainable peace in the whole of Sudan.

Mr. Straw: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. There are many reasons for supporting the Kyoto protocols and for the world to get a grip on climate change, which is within our power, but one of the best is the political, social and humanitarian effects of desertification in Darfur and Chad. As I have said, the key to the Naivasha accords is the devolution not only of power but of wealth in resources. That is also the key to a political settlement in Darfur.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): One course of action that has not yet been pursued is the imposition of sanctions, which was discussed at the European Union meeting in the Netherlands over the weekend. EU officials have been asked to draw up a list of possible sanctions and their implications. What is the UK Government's position vis-à-vis such sanctions? Do they support them? If so, but they are being braked by other EU member states, who is slowing this process down?

Mr. Straw: We actively supported operational paragraph 6 of resolution 1556, which specifies that the Security Council will consider imposing measures—sanctions—under article 41 if there is non-compliance with the terms of the resolution. That remains very strongly our position and no one is blocking the imposition of sanctions. The judgment that has to be made is whether sufficient progress has been made to justify delaying the imposition of sanctions for a further period. As I said in my statement, in our discussions in New York, which are taking place right now, we are seeking the establishment of very clear benchmarks—clearer than those in resolution 1556—and timelines against which the progress or otherwise of the
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Government of Sudan, and of the rebels, can be measured. The clear warning should be given that if there is a major failure to meet those benchmarks and timelines, in our judgment the Security Council would have to impose sanctions at that stage.

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