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20. Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet representatives from the Maldives Government to discuss the political situation in the country; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no current plans to meet representatives of the Maldivian Government. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Mr. Alexander), will discuss the political situation with the Maldivian High Commissioner to London on 13 December.
23. David Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the 2004 Afghanistan opium survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 
Mr. Rammell: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has not yet published the results of its 2004 poppy cultivation survey in Afghanistan. We anticipate the launch of the survey later this month.
Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place between US and UK counter-narcotics officials in Afghanistan regarding the prioritisation of resources for (a) eradicating poppy cultivation and (b) providing alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers. 
Mr. Rammell: UK and US officials in London, Washington and Kabul have regular discussions on how best to support the Afghan Government's National Drug Control Strategy. We are already providing support to the Afghan Government for poppy eradication and alternative livelihoods for farmers as well as for interdiction to tackle drug trafficking, judicial reform, demand reduction and public awareness. We have committed more than £70 million over three years for counter-narcotics activity plus significant development funding and support for alternative livelihoods. We are working with our international partners to increase activity in all areas of the strategy.
Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many successful counter-narcotics operations there have been in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban; and if he will make a statement. 
The UK has committed more than £70 million over three years for counter-narcotics activity plus significant development funding and support for alternative livelihoods. The UK supports the comprehensive Afghan National Drug Control Strategy, which includes law enforcement activity against traffickers, eradication, judicial reform, alternative livelihoods for farmers, demand reduction and public awareness.
9 Nov 2004 : Column 628W
Since it became operational in January 2003, the Afghan Special Narcotics Force, with UK funding and advice, has destroyed over 50 tonnes of opiates, 32 labs and made over 20 arrests. The Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan, which was created in January 2003 with UK support, report that to date they have seized 2.1 tons heroin and 13.6 tons opium, over 1.5 tons of which were achieved in UK supported operations together with 4.6 tons of precursor chemicals. The Afghan general and border police also seize opiates in the course of their work, but we do not have reliable figures.
Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his EU colleagues to discuss the effectiveness of EU sanctions against Zimbabwe. 
Mr. Mullin: We regularly meet our EU colleagues to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe. If Zimbabwe does not comply with the EU's demands on human rights and democracy by February, when the current measures are due for renewal, we will be urging our EU partners to agree that those sanctions be renewed.
Mr. MacShane: The FCO continues to attach importance to the establishment of free trade unions as an integral part of a functioning civil society. Our ambassadors regularly raise the rights of unions to organise in a number of countries and protest when International Labour Organization core labour standards are infringed. We also support specific projects to aid the establishment and operation of free trade unions in emerging democracies and post conflict countries.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to promote reconciliation between the Armenian community in Turkey and the Government of Turkey. 
Mr. MacShane: As the European Commission's 6 October report noted, Turkey has put in place reforms to minority rights and religious freedoms in its bid to open accession negotiations with the EU. In January a 'Minority Issues Assessment Board' was set up to address the problems of non-Muslim minorities, such as the Armenians. Further progress, however, is still required and I continue to press the Turkish Government for further reforms.
Mr. MacShane: Current EU policy, based on the 1997 General Affairs Council Conclusions, restricts ministerial level contact between the EU and Belarus. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not visited Belarus during this time.
Mr. MacShane: According to the Central Election Commission in Belarus, approximately fifteen international organisations were given accreditation to monitor the 17 October 2004 parliamentary elections. The main organisations were the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and organisations working together under the umbrella of the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS). In its preliminary findings and conclusions, the OSCE/ODIHR stated that the elections "fell significantly short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections". CIS observers concluded that the elections were "conducted in accordance with the norms of existing electoral legislation and were found free, fair, legitimate and transparent."
Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no meetings planned in the immediate future with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, although they speak regularly on the telephone. The agenda for the next call has not yet been set. We do discuss Belarus regularly in our bilateral contacts with Russia, including in Moscow via our Embassy. Our Ambassador has recently discussed Belarus with both Mr. Lavrov and Igor Ivanov, the Security Council chief.
Mr. MacShane: Belarus' record on human rights is poor and represents a continuing obstacle to the development of closer relations between the UK and Belarus. In the past year numerous independent newspapers, NGOs and opposition parties have faced increased harassment and closure, particularly in the run up to the 17 October parliamentary elections. We remain concerned about the situation and, together with our EU partners, regularly raise our concerns with the Belarusian authorities, both bilaterally through our Embassies in Minsk and in multilateral fora including the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna.
Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings he has held with officials from the Republic of Belarus in the last 12 months; and what the outcome of those meetings was. 
Mr. MacShane: Current EU policy, based on the 1997 General Affairs Council Conclusions, restricts ministerial level contact between the EU and Belarus. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to visit Minsk in the next 12 months.
Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no immediate plans to raise the situation in Belarus at the United Nations. The Government, together with our EU partners, have previously co-sponsored two resolutions at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and will continue to consider further action within the framework of the United Nations.
Mr. MacShane: I refer the hon. Member to the declaration on the conduct of the election and referendum in Belarus issued by the EU on 20 October. We fully support this declaration. We are deeply concerned about the issues raised in the preliminary findings and conclusions of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) International Election Observation Mission (IEOM). We will assess the conclusions of the OSCE IEOM's final report when this is published, and will press Belarus to implement any recommendations.
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