|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hoon: NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic defence, supporting security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond through its operations and missions, from Kosovo to Afghanistan. As this month's NATO summit will demonstrate, it is the key forum for transatlantic discussion and dialogue on political and security issues. Its deepening relationships with an expanding range of partners and institutions, from the European Union to Gulf countries, are also making an important contribution to meeting today's security challenges. NATO will continue this role in the future.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received regarding the recruitment of child soldiers by Maoist rebels in Nepal; and what steps she is taking to seek an end to this practice. 
Dr. Howells: Maoist recruitment of children has noticeably increased in recent weeks. We are receiving many troubling reports about this from various sources. The current recruitment drive is clearly related to the move of Maoist cadres into cantonment camps. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are monitoring the situation closely. They have been able to verify a number of these cases and expressed their public concern with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, on 19 November. We understand their direct intervention in local cases has seen the return of children to their families and out of harm's way.
The UK strongly supports the work of the OHCHR in its vital monitoring and prevention role. We welcome the role of the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Nepal. Both have voiced their deep concern over child recruitment directly to the Maoist leadership. During the visit of the EU
Troika our European partners met with the Maoists and publicly condemned their ongoing abduction, extortion and political violence, in a statement on 17 November. The full text of the 17 November statement can be found at the following website:
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make it her policy to promote a UN Treaty on nuclear disarmament; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government consider the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and the framework for nuclear disarmament. The UK has an excellent record in implementing its disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT and, in this regard, continues to press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. The Government do not support any new process, including a UN Treaty on nuclear disarmament, which could risk cutting across the existing NPT regime.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the previous draft UN Nuclear Weapons Convention; if she will make it her policy to sponsor a UN resolution adopting the Nuclear Weapons Convention as a binding treaty for nuclear disarmament; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Kim Howells, gave to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) on 9 May 2006, Official Report, column 183W.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department (a) has taken and (b) is planning to take in the next 12 months to implement Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: The UK has undertaken many important steps in fulfilling its disarmament obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Since the end of the Cold War we have reduced the total explosive power of our nuclear forces by over 70 per cent. and we are the only nuclear weapon state to have reduced its deterrent capacity to a single nuclear weapons system, Trident.
We continue to press for multilateral negotiations towards both nuclear, and general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, as required by Article VI of the NPT. On nuclear disarmament our current priority is to push for negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, without pre-conditions, at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which we view as the next appropriate step towards achieving the goal of nuclear disarmament. On the conventional side, we remain committed to building support for a legally binding treaty on the trade in all conventional arms. The adoption on 26 October of a UN General Assembly First Committee resolution to set up a UN process, backed by a strong majority of states, is a major step forward. We will continue to work with international partners to turn this beginning into a treaty that will make a real difference.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her assessment is of the possible effects of NATOs (a) nuclear-sharing policy and (b) nuclear first-use policy on the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what measures the President of Pakistan indicated would be taken to deal with the Taliban and reduce the level of activity across the border into Afghanistan during his meeting with the Prime Minister on 28 September; 
Margaret Beckett: President Musharraf made clear during his meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 September at Chequers, and more recently on 19 November during my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan, his continued commitment to combating terrorism, and support for stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has moved considerable resources to the border regions to quell insurgent activity and prevent illegal cross border traffic. In addition the Pakistani authorities continue to arrest significant numbers of Taliban members and where appropriate extradite them to Afghanistan.
As part of a common effort to counter terrorism, the Government are providing training and capacity building to the Pakistan authorities in their efforts to counter Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.
The Government are considering how it might complement the existing US Border Management Initiative, designed to help both the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to manage border issues more effectively, in an effort to further reduce the Taliban threat.
The Government are supporting a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees project to register Afghans living in refugee camps close to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. The ID cards project will be a significant tool for wider border management policies.
The UK also provides a wide range of bilateral and multilateral assistance to Pakistan as an important element in seeking to disrupt the activities of Afghan drug trafficking groups. This includes providing equipment and training, particularly to their Anti Narcotics Force, to assist with interdiction of opiates on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her US counterpart on proposals to strengthen Palestinian security forces; and what assessment she has made of (a) the US's proposals and (b) the extent to which agreement with the US was reached in such discussions. 
Dr. Howells: We continue to support US Security Co-ordinator General Dayton's work on strengthening the Palestinian Security Forces. Officials remain in regular contact with General Dayton's team. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with her US counterpart on General Dayton's work.
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2006 Annual Report on Human Rights, released on 12 October, sets out a range of concerns about human rights, democracy and rule of law in Russia. The report outlines, amongst other issues, our concerns about: restrictions on the activities of civil society, a lack of media freedom, restrictions on certain minority religious groups, judicial independence and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
We continue to engage with Russia on human rights issues, critically as necessary. The report also details when FCO Ministers have raised these and other human rights issues with the Russian authorities, over the last 12 months. It is available on the FCO website at:
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Governments position is on the French judicial authorities indictment of President Kagame of Rwanda for his role in the genocide. 
Mr. Hoon: We understand that a French judge carried out an investigation into the shooting down of President Habyarmanas plane in 1994 at the request of the families of the French crew that died in the crash. The French authorities have issued arrest warrants for nine Rwandan officials. We are not aware of an arrest warrant for President Kagame.
We applaud the progress made in Rwanda since the genocide. The UK has been a leading donor for several years and we will continue to support Rwandan development and the countrys impressive efforts to move forward after the appalling events of 1994.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions her Department has had with representatives of Somalias transitional Government; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, met the Foreign Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, His Excellency Ismail Mahmoud Hurre, on 1 November following extensive meetings during the United Nations General Assembly in September. Officials from our High Commission in Nairobi also meet representatives of Somalias Transitional Federal institutions regularly.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of reports that fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Eritrea have entered Somalia in support of the Union of Islamic Courts; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: The report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia alleges that foreign fighters have entered Somalia in answer to calls for jihad that have been uttered by members of the Union of Islamic Courts. We have no reliable assessment of the numbers involved. We continue to urge all parties in Somalia to renounce violence and resolve their differences through dialogue.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government played a role in the recent visits of the
hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. McGuinness) to Sri Lanka to hold discussions with the Tamil Tigers. 
Dr. Howells: The Government have played no role in the recent visits of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster to Sri Lanka. We understand that he travelled to the country at the invitation of a Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation, the Institute for Political and Conflict Transformation. We welcome efforts by participants in the Northern Ireland peace process to share their knowledge with Sri Lankans.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts her Department has made with organisations representing the Tamil people of Sri Lanka in the last 12 months; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Officials of our High Commission in Colombo have frequent contact with groups representing the full spectrum of views of Sri Lankas Tamil population. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials also regularly meet visiting Tamil representatives and members of the Diaspora population resident in the UK.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the government of Sri Lanka on achieving a ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government regularly discusses the implementation of the Cease-Fire Agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met President Rajapakse of Sri Lanka in August, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Timms), met the President in September and my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) met representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in November. Our High Commissioner in Colombo and his officials discuss issues relating to the conflict with Sri Lankan government representatives on a daily basis.
We strongly support the work of Norwegian facilitators to achieve peace in Sri Lanka. The continuing loss of life is tragic and unnecessary. We call on both sides to abide by their existing commitments, restated in Geneva in October, to uphold the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement and demonstrate this in their actions.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings her Department has held with humanitarian groups in Sri Lanka to discuss the effects of the conflict in the North and East of the country in the last 12 months. 
Dr. Howells: Officials from our High Commission in Colombo meet humanitarian agencies regularly to discuss the situation in the north and east. They have participated in five multi-donor field trips to conflict affected areas since the beginning of October.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has held on the provision of peace keeping troops in Darfur with (a) the African Union and (b) the United Nations; and what (i) support, (ii) advice and (iii) resources she is willing to provide to that end. 
Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended a high-level meeting on the future of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in Addis Ababa on 16 November. The meeting was co-chaired by the African Union (AU) and UN, and reached consensus on plans to increase UN support to AMIS over three phases.
The first phase is a light package of support for command and control, logistics and planning. The second phase will enhance infrastructure, military and police training, ground and air assets. The third phase, agreed in principle, will involve a joint AU/UN peace-keeping operation of up to 17,000 plus 3,000 police.
The UK continues to support AMIS. We have given £20 million this year, taking the total UK contribution to £52 million. We also provide both Military Observers and Civilian Police to AMIS through the EU. The 16 November meeting agreed on the need for UN funding for the force in Darfur. Assuming such funding came from assessed contributions, the UK would be liable for 7.4 per cent. of the total.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the extension of the UN arms embargo to cover the whole of the Sudan; and if she will make a statement. 
However, the UK is a leading proponent of Security Council action to help improve the appalling situation in Darfur. With our Security Council partners we will consider all options, including further measures, which may help achieve this.
In addition we are working with partners to ensure that the existing arms embargo is more effective. We are providing additional resources to the African Union and the UN Sanctions Panel of Experts whose combined responsibility it is to implement and monitor the embargo.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|