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6 Feb 2006 : Column 782W—continued

Palestinian Election

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority following the recent Palestinian legislative elections. [48594]

Dr. Howells: We welcome the fact that the Rafah border crossing, with the help of the EU Border Assistance Mission, remained open in the period leading up to and beyond the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. However, we are concerned that the Kami crossing in the northern Gaza Strip has been closed since 15 January; that the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported an increase in the number of obstacles to movement in the West Bank; and that the deadline for the introduction of truck convoys between Gaza and the West Bank by 15 January was missed.

We call upon Israel to act on its commitments in the Movement and Access agreement and also call upon the new Palestinian Government to commit itself to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the effect of the election victory of Hamas on the UK's relations with the Palestinian Authority. [48701]

Dr. Howells: Our policy is clear that democracy means accepting the results of elections, provided they are free and fair. The Palestinian Legislative Council elections are not an exception to this principle.

On 30 January the Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) and the EU at the General Affairs and External Relations Council reiterated their view that there is a fundamental contradiction between armed group and militia activities and the building of a democratic state. A two-state solution to the conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror, accept Israel's right to exist, and disarm, as outlined in the Roadmap. We support this approach.

Hamas now has a choice to make between the path of democracy and the path of violence. The onus is on Hamas to change, and fundamentally they have to change their approach to Israel. We are watching developments closely and taking stock of the situation.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Lebanese counterpart regarding Hamas's victory in the recent Palestinian elections. [47855]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not had the opportunity to discuss Hamas' victory at last week's Palestinian elections with his Lebanese counterpart.

Rendition

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when (a) he and (b) his officials were first informed of the existence of United States interrogation centres in third countries. [45300]


 
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Mr. Straw: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him today (UIN 45312).

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his written statement of 20 January 2006, Official Report, columns 37–38WS, on rendition allegations (inquiries), for what reasons the Government declined in 1998 the two requests from the US Administration to refuel flights carrying detainees to the US; and where the flights originated in each case. [46697]

Mr. Straw: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield Hallam (Mr. Clegg) today (U1N 45312).

Road Map

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the policy of Hamas towards the Palestinian Authority's commitments under the Road Map, with particular reference to the commitment to seek to curtail terrorism; what steps he plans to take to promote the Authority's adherence to the Road Map following the elections for the Legislative Council; and if he will make a statement. [47774]

Dr. Howells: Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Government remain committed towards making progress against the Roadmap.

On the 30 January the Quartet (UN, EU, US and Russia) reiterated its view that all members of a future Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. We urge both parties to respect their existing agreements, including on movement and access. We support this approach.

Hamas now has a choice to make between the path of democracy and the path of violence. The onus is on Hamas to change their approach to Israel, renounce violence and disarm.

UN Mechanisms (Gaza)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 1704W, on Israel, when Sir Emyr Jones-Parry will be making his next statement at the United Nations Security Council open consultations; what other United Nations mechanisms are available to the UK for raising this matter; and if he will make a statement on Lieutenant General Halutz's response to the Government's concerns about low flying aircraft over Gaza. [47528]

Dr. Howells: We are concerned by Lt. Gen. Halutz's comment that the Israeli Air Force will continue to conduct operations including low-flying aircraft over the Gaza Strip. We will continue to call upon Israel to act in accordance with international law and to review its policy of collective punishment.

The British ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, raised this issue with the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs on 31 January. She confirmed that this is an issue that the UN is aware of and that they are currently discussing
 
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these actions with the UN Relief and Works Agency. We will continue to follow this situation closely. We will also raise this issue with the Government of Israel.

United States

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the (a) number and (b) location of interrogation centres operated by the United States Administration; [45312]

(2) what assessment he has made of US compliance with international human rights laws in the operation of its interrogation centres; [45313]

(3) whether a UK (a) citizen and (b) resident has been subject to an international rendition by the United States since 1995. [45373]

Mr. Straw: The Government's efforts to counter the threat of international terrorism must, by their nature, involve a degree of confidentiality. If we are successfully to detect and disrupt terrorist plans and activity, we must protect our sources and methods. We must also protect our counter-terrorism, and wider intelligence, relationships with key allies, including the United States, which are essential to the security of our citizens.

At the same time, any Government in a democratic society should be as open as it can be without jeopardising security. This principle guides our counter-terrorism policy. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Report of 2005 made clear our view that respect for human rights is vital, not least for long-term success in the fight against terrorism.

Over the last few weeks, the Government have been as open as possible with the House. Ministers have given a number of oral and written answers to hon. and right hon. Members in connection with extraordinary rendition". I have also responded to letters from hon. and right hon. Members, and issued two written ministerial statements. I have informed and updated the House as far as possible within the constraints described above, I shall continue to do so.

There is a great deal of information on the work of the intelligence and security agencies which cannot be divulged publicly. Because of this, and other special circumstances relating to the work of the agencies, Parliament established the Intelligence and Security Committee; much information is provided to this committee in confidence.

We have no evidence that the United States Government has rendered any detainee through UK territory or airspace (including the overseas territories) during the present United States Administration (i.e. since January 2001), and we are clear that it would not do so without our permission.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statement of 5 December made clear that the US Government has for decades rendered terrorist suspects from one country to another, and set out the basis on which it does so. Except in so far as UK responsibilities or obligations are engaged by such renditions (for example, because a detainee passes through UK territory), this is not a matter for the UK Government. Like any other country, the UK can only be responsible for compliance with its
 
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own legal obligations and responsibilities. My written ministerial statement of 20 January summarised what we know of renditions through UK territory or airspace since May 1997. It is a matter of public record that a number of UK citizens, and non-UK citizens formerly resident in the UK, have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay (whence all the UK citizens have since been returned to the UK). We are not aware that any other UK citizens have been the subject of an international rendition since 1995. Given the open nature of our society, however, with huge flows of foreigners into and out of the UK, we cannot be sure whether any other non-UK citizens formerly resident in the UK have subsequently been the subject of international rendition.

It is also a matter of public record that the US Government has operated facilities in which terrorist suspects may be detained and questioned in Afghanistan since 2001, at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 and in Iraq since 2003.

I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of my reply to a letter from the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague).


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