Letter to Kim Howells MP, Minister of
State for the Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Thank you for appearing before the House of
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee last month to give oral evidence
on our "Global Security: Middle East" inquiry. As you
will be aware, we have since had the opportunity to visit some
of the key states in the region. We would like to follow up our
visit with a number of questions on the role of the United Kingdom
in the Middle East. These are listed below:
(1) The Committee learnt in Damascus
that the FCO has a negative stance towards Syria's application
to the World Trade Organisation. What is the FCO's current position
on Syria's application to the WTO, and why is this position being
(2) The Committee learnt in Damascus
that the UK has developed an "understanding" with EU
partners on a policy of no ministerial visits to Syria. The Committee
was told that this "understanding" was "evolving".
What is the current policy of the UK with regards to ministerial
visits to Syria?
(3) The Committee was told that the
EU was adopting a "go slow" policy towards ratification
of the Association Agreement with Syria. What is the current position
of the UK on ratification of the Association Agreement?
(4) The Committee was told that $1.2
million more funding would be required to complete the clearance
of unexploded cluster munitions in south Lebanon by the target
date of December 2007. What consideration has the Government given
to providing this extra funding to ensure this work is completed
(5) What representations has the Government
made to Israel to a) ask it to hand over all relevant maps locating
unexploded ordinance and b) ascertain how many cluster bombs were
dropped on Lebanon during the most recent war? What is your assessment
of the overall level of co-operation provided by Israel in helping
to clear unexploded cluster munitions from south Lebanon?
(6) What representations has the Government
made to the United States to encourage it to persuade Israel to
provide figures for the number of cluster bombs dropped on Lebanon
during the most recent war and to hand over all relevant maps
locating unexploded ordinance?
(7) On the Today Programme on 22 March
2007, you said that former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton's
remarks suggesting the US had deliberately blocked a ceasefire
in Lebanon to give Israel a chance to destroy Hezbollah had "come
as a surprise". You said that "I certainly didn't get
a sense that there was some kind of formal collusion between the
Israelis and the Americans. They certainly didn't communicate
that to us in any shape or form". Is it still your view that
such a "formal collusion" did not exist?
(8) In a press conference in March,
you suggested that based on your visit to Lebanon, there is no
evidence that large amounts of weapons are being smuggled to Hezbollah
from Syria, although some may have been smuggled before UNIFIL's
deployment. Does the FCO have any evidence to suggest that weapons
are currently being smuggled across borders to Hezbollah?
(9) What is the estimated frequency
of Israeli overflights into Lebanon's territory? We understand
that the Government has made representations to Israel on this
issue. Is it your assessment that these representations have had
an impact on Israel's behaviour?
(10) What number of Iraqi refugees does the
Government intend to allow to resettle in the United Kingdom in
(11) What is the breakdown of staff employed
by the FCO at each position from Ambassador to Third Secretary
in each of the following countries in each year from 2000 to 2007?
Are changes expected in the next two years?
Countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel,
Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE
(12) What has been the expenditure of (a)
the FCO and (b) DFID in each of the countries listed in the question
above in each year from 2000 to 2007? How is this expected to
change in the next two years?
(13) How many staff based at the FCO in London
have been working primarily on a) the Middle East excluding Iraq
and (b) Iraq in each of the years from 2000 to 2007?
(14) How many members of the diplomatic service
have held fluency in Arabic in each of the years from 2000 to
2007? How is this expected to change in the next two years?
We would be grateful if we could receive a reply
to these questions by 21 May 2007.
1 May 2007