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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when UKvisas will reply to the letter of 7 July from the hon. Member for Aylesbury about the case of Mr. S J of Pakistan, husband of Mrs. S H of Aylesbury (ref. GU100/ 86120/MJG; post 861093); and if he will make a statement. 
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 September 2004, Official Report, column 1451W, on the Council of Ministers, whether he has concluded his further consideration of the matter. 
Mr. MacShane: Following the referendum on the UN Secretary General's comprehensive settlement plan in which the Greek Cypriots voted "no" and the Turkish Cypriots "yes", the EU agreed to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. In practice, we are working to reach EU agreement on regulations to enable preferential direct trade between north Cyprus and the rest of the EU, and to disburse the £259 million of aid allocated for the north of the island.
We support these measures as we believe it is important for the EU to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe, and help to build trade links and reduce the economic gap between the two communities. This will make reunification more likely, easier to consolidate and less costly. Trade will increase trust and lay the foundations for co-operation in a reunified Cyprus. A widening wealth gap and continued economic division will make a solution much more difficult.
As I told the Greek Cypriot leadership during my recent visit to the island, we understand the concerns that made Greek Cypriots vote "no" to the UN plan and look forward to seeing Greek Cypriot proposals on moving the process forward. If we believe the proposals are reasonable and have a realistic chance of success, we will encourage the UN Secretary-General to re-engage and put all our resources and influence behind finding a solution on the basis of the Annan Plan that is
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acceptable to all sides. We continue to believe that the Annan Plan offers the only realistic basis for a settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the (a) conferences, (b) publications, (c) initiatives, (d) projects and (e) receptions organised by his Department which have received funding from outside commercial bodies since May 1997, broken down by (i) funding body and (ii) amount paid. 
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs and External Relations Council held on 23 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. 
I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 2 November in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. John Grant (UK's permanent representative to the EU) accompanied me. This was a short half-day GAERC, which dealt primarily with the preparation of the European Council held on 5 November 2004.
The Council examined draft conclusions prepared by the Presidency for the European Council. These were finalised prior to the GAERC by officials. The Presidency outlined the main items that the European Council was due to discuss. These were:
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Economic issuesPresentation by Mr. Wim Kok, chairman of a high-level group advising the Commission on the preparation of the mid-term review of the economic reform strategy laid down at Lisbon in March 2000.
External relationsConclusions were expected on Iran. Iraq, the Middle East and Sudan. The Conclusions agreed at the GAERC on Iraq and Sudan were forwarded to the Council and attached to a Council Declaration. Draft conclusions for Iran and the Middle East were not discussed at the GAERC. These were discussed in the run-up to the European Council.
The summit, the fourteenth to be held under the EU-Russia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, is due to address the building of four "common spaces" for the EU and Russia, namely the common economic space, the common space of freedom, security and justice, the common space of external security and the common space of research and education. International and regional issues, such as the Middle East (including Iran and Iraq), terrorism. Moldova and the South Caucasus, are also likely to be discussed. The Presidency noted that the four "spaces" were part of a single package.
On the agenda at Italian request, the Council held a brief exchange of views on the situation in Somalia following the election of Mr. Abdullahi Yusuf as President on 10 October and the expected formation of a transitional government. The Presidency reiterated support for the peace process in Somalia and emphasised the EU's willingness to contribute to the country's stabilisation and reconstruction, notably through support for African Union initiatives.
The Council was briefed by the Belgian Foreign Minister on efforts to bring peace and security to the African Great Lakes region, with particular focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the light of his recent visit in the region.
The Council was briefed by the Portuguese Foreign Minister on recent developments in Guinea-Bissau following unrest on 6 October and on efforts led by the international community, including Portuguese-speaking States, with a view to contributing to a stabilisation of the situation.
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At the suggestion of the Polish delegation, the Council briefly discussed EU policy with regard to Belarus in the light of irregularities in the parliamentary elections and referendum on 17 October and attacks on opposition leaders and media representatives at a political demonstration in Minsk on 19 October. It will discuss the matter in greater detail at its meeting on 22 November.
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