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6. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): if he will make a statement on Government policy on Kashmir. [224389]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The Government fully support the ongoing composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, which includes the issue of Kashmir.

We warmly welcome the progress made over the last 18 months, including the ceasefire over the line of control and, among other things, the agreement to run a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, scheduled to start in two days' time. We continue to urge both countries to seek a just and lasting resolution to their dispute that takes into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

Simon Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman knows that I commend his interest in the subject. Indeed, we were in the region at the same time. Can I have an assurance that when he was in India he made clear to the Government of India that any violations of human rights of the people in Kashmir would be unacceptable, and always has been unacceptable, and that proper remedies are required? Will he assure me that this outgoing Administration will leave with a clear message by repeating the final point in his main response: that the only solution that will be satisfactory for the people of Kashmir is one that they agree is satisfactory and where they determine their own future?

Mr. Straw: Yes, I did discuss the issue of human rights in Kashmir when I was last in India, which was in February, at about the same time that I went to Pakistan. We always raise the issue. Some limited progress has been made on that front, which I welcome. We shall continue to maintain the pressure. The fact that there is now a Congress-led Government is important in this respect because they realise that there is a human rights deficit in respect of Jammu and Kashmir. As for Kashmir generally, I commend what the hon. Gentleman said recently:

That is our position too.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will recognise that this problem has gone on for 57 and a half years too long. The answer that he has just given was very encouraging, and we all welcome the positive signs that progress is now being made. He will also recognise, however, that there is still some way to go before the problem is solved. Will he ensure that this country gives the necessary support and encouragement to India and Pakistan in this regard? I agree with the final part of his first answer, in which he said that if there is to be justice for the people on both sides in Kashmir, a solution must be found that is acceptable to the people of Kashmir as well as to those of India and Pakistan.
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Mr. Straw: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. As this is probably the last exchange that he and I will enjoy in the Chamber, may I wish him well in his retirement? He is a close neighbour and a good friend of mine, as well as an active and fine parliamentarian.

It is perfectly plain that there cannot be justice or a solution to the terrible problem in Kashmir without a solution that enjoys the consent of all the peoples on either side of the line of control, and that is something that we shall continue to press for. We shall also continue with our active engagement. It was the British and American Governments who played a very active part in persuading India and Pakistan just over three years ago that their mobilisation to war—they were right on the brink of war at that time—would have done nothing for the people of Kashmir and would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people on either side of the line of control. Since then, we have actively supported the composite dialogue.

Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on all his hard work to ensure that Pakistan and India came together to engage in this dialogue. Does he agree, however, that he need take no lessons from the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on this matter? We have an all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir, but not one Liberal Democrat Member has turned up to any of its meetings to discuss any of these issues—

Mr. Speaker: Order. These are not matters for the Minister.

Tyrannical Regimes

8. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): What progress has been made in implementing the proposals on international law and tyrannical regimes put forward by the UN's high level panel in November 2004. [224391]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): We continue to work actively with the United Nations on improving collective action against tyrannical regimes. The high level panel and Kofi Annan's report, "In Larger Freedom", offer bold ideas for reform. These proposals will enable the UN to deal with the challenges that it faces, including the international community's collective responsibility to act against regimes that are unwilling or unable to protect the fundamental human rights of their people.

Mr. Allen: I congratulate the Minister and the Foreign Secretary on the priority that they have given to the work of the high level panel. This involves the big picture and the long-term perspective, but unless the United Nations has teeth, and the willingness to use them, nations on the Security Council and outside it will always be tempted to act unilaterally. Will my hon. Friend therefore ensure that the United Nations extends its willingness to take action to protect the human rights of the citizens of the nations of the world, and will he
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redouble his efforts to ensure that the UN eventually gets the teeth to make our international peace more secure?

Mr. Rammell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question and for his interest in this issue; I think that this is the third time that he has raised it in Foreign Office questions. As many hon. Members have already said, the most damning indictment of the international community and the United Nations was the failure to act in Rwanda in 1994. If we can grasp the opportunity presented by the high level panel's report and the Secretary-General's response to it, we shall be in a better position to prevent similar situations from occurring. That is why we must strongly support the proposals.

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab): What can be done about the United Nations Commission on Human Rights? The panel has pointed out the crisis of credibility, and the problems relating to membership and to the blocking of serious discussion of the major transgressors of human rights. The panel also made various recommendations. What are the prospects of their being carried forward?

Mr. Rammell: There is a genuine problem with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. I have spoken at meetings of that body three years in a row and it is a deeply problematic organisation. One aspect of the high level panel report that did not come up to scratch was its recommendations on that commission. In that regard, the Secretary-General's proposals, especially for a human rights council, are well worth exploring. We want that to happen.


9. Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport) (Con): If he will make a statement on Ukraine's progress towards fulfilling its action plan with NATO. [224392]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): Following the election of President Yushchenko, European and NATO partners have stepped up dialogues with Ukraine. I held talks with President Yushchenko last week in Kiev. Through the annual target plan, Ukraine is moving towards NATO standards.

Mr. Viggers: Will the Minister join me in sending good wishes to the people of Ukraine as they move closer to accountable democracy, including political control of the military? Will he also comment on press reports that the previous Kuchma regime sold Cruise missiles to other nations, including Iran? Is the Yushchenko Government co-operating fully in having the matter thoroughly investigated? What impact will that information have on our discussions with Iran?

Mr. MacShane: I fully support the hon. Gentleman's first point. I encourage hon. Members to visit Ukraine, which, after the Orange revolution, is moving forward towards a European future as a strong democracy, and we must be there with the Ukrainian people.

I have raised directly with Ukrainian Government officials and the Foreign Minister exactly the problem to which the hon. Gentleman referred of illegal sales of
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what they described as defunct Cruise missiles to Iran and China. They promised a full investigation and co-operation with us and other NATO Governments in finding out what went on.

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