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Ian Pearson: The UK is a Participant of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a set of politically-binding minimum common standards which control the international trade in rough diamonds, as well as stipulating various levels of transparency, monitoring and co-operation between participants. The Government Diamond Office (GDO), the authority overseeing UK implementation of the KPCS, is a Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The GDO issues certificates for exports of rough diamonds from the UK, collates statistics for the UK trade in rough diamonds and monitors implementation of the KPCS provisions within the UK, including through co-operating with HM Revenue and Customs on inspections of rough diamond shipments.
However, the United Kingdom is committed to the international control of the trade in rough diamonds through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The scheme allows for multilateral action to review and encourage all Participants, including those in Africa, to improve controls over their diamond production and trade.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the mining of and trade in conflict diamonds on West African economies; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson: Diamond production and trade is just one of the factors that impacts upon West African economies. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is a set of politically-binding minimum common standards which control the international trade in rough diamonds, as well as stipulating various levels of transparency, monitoring and co-operation between participants. Under the terms of the Peer Review Mechanism within the KPCS, a Review Visit has been carried out in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Togo, while ad-hoc missions have been carried out in Liberia and specific monitoring measures are in place with regard to the conflict diamond situation in Cote d'Ivoire. These measures, together with those being undertaken via the three-year review process for the KPCS that is due to report in July 2006, have provided the KPCS, and the participants thereof, with an assessment of the impact of the Kimberley Process in addressing the issue of conflict diamonds upon West African economies. Sanctions have also proved a useful tool in restricting the flow of conflict diamonds.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Brent, East dated 28 February 2005 regarding Mr. Craig Murray. 
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter of 7 December 2005 from Anas el-Banna about his father, Jamil el-Banna, sent to the Prime Minister and forwarded to his Department on 16 January. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently visited Cyprus, Turkey and Greece to assess the prospects for resuming negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement and the reunification of the island. He encouraged all parties to take the necessary steps towards the removal of all obstacles to trade in the region, a settlement of the Cyprus problem and the normalisation of relations in all directions.
The UN Secretary-General reported last November that progress towards a settlement had been negligible at best". We believe the absence of dialogue between the two communities is the greatest obstacle to progress. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary urged the leaders of both communities to find the courage and flexibility to move forward. We are concerned that the passage of time is making a settlement harder to achieve. In this context, we welcome recent examples of practical co-operation between the two communities.
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Outbreaks of violence continue to be reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), predominantly in Ituri, the Kivus and North Katanga. Mostly these are localised but some clashes have a wider impact on the peace process. Recent fighting between the DRC army and rebels in North Kivu and North Katanga has had an impact on civilians, who have suffered abuses by all sides. Thousands have been displaced.
The international community has frequently condemned the activities of militias and ill-disciplined soldiers and has reminded the Congolese Government of its responsibility to protect civilians. The robust approach taken by the UN Organisation Mission in the DRC to tackling these groups and protecting civilians was endorsed and underlined by UN Security Council Resolution 1653, adopted in January 2006.
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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps (a) the UK Government are taking and (b) he is taking through (i) civil society organisations, (ii) the United Nations and (iii) other means to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo from intimidation, murder and other humanitarian atrocities; and what assessment he has made of the steps needed to improve measures to protect civilians in that country. 
Ian Pearson: The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the ultimate responsibility to protect civilians in its territory. But years of civil war and decades of misrule have damaged the Government's ability to offer that protection. As well as rebel groups, unpaid and poorly-trained Congolese soldiers are also a threat to the civilians that they are supposed to protect. Reforming the army and security sector is therefore a high priority. The UK is working on this bilaterally and through providing experts to the EU army and police reform missions in DRC. The UN mission in DRC, with strong UK support, plays a key role both in protecting civilians and through its robust military action, often supporting Congolese military efforts, to neutralise the armed groups operating on DRC territory. The UK has allocated £55 million of bilateral support to DRC this financial year, part of which will support local civil society organisations.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the Governments of (a) Uganda, (b) Rwanda and (c) Burundi concerning the security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: British representatives in the Great Lakes region regularly discuss the security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its border areas with the Governments to which they are accredited. We remind them of the need to respect Congolese territorial sovereignty and to work together to resolve the issue of the foreign armed groups in the region. We underline that there must be no external support for Congolese armed groups that try to disrupt the peace process and that the DRC must take action to deal with the armed groups on its soil. UN Security Council Resolution 1653 reinforced this message. We support the US-facilitated Tripartite Plus Commission which brings Ugandan, Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese Foreign Ministers together to find solutions to issues affecting the region.
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