Previous Section Index Home Page

2 Apr 2008 : Column 1038W—continued

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Drugs

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on trends in opium production in Afghanistan. [196704]

Dr. Howells: The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducts annual surveys of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. We remain concerned by the total opium cultivation figures, but welcome the UNODC's findings in its Rapid Assessment survey, that they expect cultivation to “decrease slightly in 2008”. Poppy cultivation has increased primarily in the south, where insecurity is greatest. In the north and east—where security, alternative livelihoods and governance exists—poppy cultivation has fallen: in 2007, the number of poppy free provinces doubled from six to 13. (Further information is available in the joint UK/US paper, ‘Fighting the Opium Trade in Afghanistan: Myths, Facts, and Sound Policy’—available on the counter narcotics page at:


2 Apr 2008 : Column 1039W

This year we hope to see further progress and support the government of Afghanistan's target of over half of all provinces becoming poppy free in 2008. The following data are drawn from the UNODC surveys.

Estimated opium poppy cultivation (hectares) Potential total volume of opium production (metric tonnes)

2007

193,000

8,200

2006

165,000

6,100

2005

104,000

4,100

2004

131,000

4,200

2003

80,000

3,600

2002

74,000

3,400

2001

8,000

185

2000

82,172

3,276

1999

91,983

4,565

1998

64,674

2,693


Armenia: Elections

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the (a) conduct and (b) outcome of the election in Armenia on 19 February 2008; and if he will make a statement. [197033]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK supports the various pre-election and post election interim assessments made by the independent International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), in which it participated. These generally noted some improvements on previous elections, highlighting for example genuine attempts to address previously identified shortcomings; a non-discriminatory candidate registration process; the ability of candidates to campaign at public meetings; and improvements in electoral legislation and in the accuracy of the national register of votes.

The IEOM, however, raised many concerns, such as the lack of clear separation between state and party functions and the unequal treatment of candidates in the media; and the vote count in some 16 per cent. of polling stations visited was assessed as “bad” or “very bad”. A subsequent interim report from the IEOM three weeks later, following the handling of complaints, appeals and recounts, was much more critical of these processes. The Armenian Constitutional Court rejected appeals from opposition candidates challenging the election results.

With EU partners and bilaterally, we have expressed our serious concerns about recent political developments in Armenia, including violent clashes with demonstrators on 1 March, which resulted in eight deaths and scores of injured. We have urged the Armenian government to engage in a dialogue with the opposition to address their concerns. We welcome the recent lifting of the state of emergency in Yerevan, but we urge the Armenian authorities to lift continuing restrictions on freedom of assembly; to avoid further harassment of opposition politicians and ensure that any prosecutions are handled in a transparent and fair manner; to ensure an independent and open inquiry into the events of 1 March; and to address the substantive concerns raised by the IEOM.


2 Apr 2008 : Column 1040W

Bombs

Roger Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government has made to ensure that civil society organisations will have a strong voice during the negotiations in May on a treaty banning cluster munitions. [196859]

Dr. Howells: The Government welcomes the continued active participation of civil society organisations in the Oslo Process on cluster munitions. At the Dublin meeting in May, final negotiations on the text of a treaty will take place and civil society organisations are being invited to attend by the Government of Ireland as observers as per the rules of procedure for Dublin which can be found at:

The Government are pleased with the outcome of the last Oslo Process meeting in Wellington (18-22 February), where the UK was able to join many other nations in supporting the Wellington Declaration this document can be found at:

We believe that this declaration and the associated compendium of proposals, which includes contributions from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Cluster Munition Coalition, pave the way for a successful outcome in Dublin, securing a legally binding instrument prohibiting the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

Central African Republic: Armed Conflict

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received reports of Lord's Resistance Army troop movements into the Central African Republic; and if he will make a statement. [197078]

Meg Munn: The Government are aware of unverified reports that the Lord's Resistance Army is relocating from Garamba national park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Central African Republic.

Chad: Armed Conflict

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of recent claims by the Government of Chad of Sudanese support of rebel forces active in Chad; and if he will make a statement. [196913]

Meg Munn: We are aware of reports that both Sudan and Chad continue to support each other’s rebels. The Government, together with the UN, the EU and the African Union, has urged both sides to cease all support for armed groups in the region, commit to a peace process and abide by previous ceasefire agreements.


2 Apr 2008 : Column 1041W

Chad: Politics and Government

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the (a) political and (b) security situation in Chad; and if he will make a statement. [196919]

Meg Munn: The political and security situation in Chad remains unstable following rebel incursions into the capital, N’Djamena, on 2 February 2008. The UN estimated that roughly 30,000 people were forced to flee into neighbouring Cameroon during the fighting, though many Chadians have now returned to N’Djamena.

In the East, roughly 13,000 new refugees have crossed the border from Sudan. UN and humanitarian operations in Eastern Chad were curtailed during the fighting, but have largely returned to normal. EUFOR, the EU force in Eastern Chad and the Central African Republic, has now reached initial operating capability and will increase security around refugee and Internally Displaced Persons camps.

The Dakar Accord was signed by the Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno and the Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir in Senegal on 13 March 2008. It commits the two countries to reconciling their differences, normalising relations and contributing to stability in the region. The Government welcome the signing of this agreement.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) UK representatives in (i) N'Djamena and (ii) Yaounde have had with (A) members and (B) representatives of the government of Chad on the (1) grounds for and (2) nature of the detention of former President Lol Mahamat Choua; and if he will make a statement. [197133]

Meg Munn: The UK is represented in Chad through our high commission in Yaounde. We have not had any bilateral contact with members or representatives of the government of Chad on this issue. We are supporting EU efforts to investigate the circumstances surrounding the detention of Lol Mahamat Choua and the arrest of several other Chadian political opposition leaders. EU representatives have been in contact with Chadian opposition politicians.

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of 18 February 2008 stated

We will continue to support EU initiatives encouraging an official Chadian Commission of Inquiry into this matter.

Chad: Sudan

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the accord signed between the Governments of Chad and Sudan at the Dakar summit on 14 March; and if he will make a statement. [196910]


2 Apr 2008 : Column 1042W

Meg Munn: The Dakar Accord was signed by the Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno and the Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir in Senegal on 13 March 2008. It commits the two countries to reconciling their differences, normalising relations and contributing to stability in the region. The Government welcome the signing of this agreement. We will make clear to both Chad and Sudan that we expect them to abide by the terms of this agreement.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance his Department (a) offered and (b) provided to the Government of Senegal in reaching the Dakar agreement between the Governments of Chad and Sudan; and if he will make a statement. [196911]

Meg Munn: The Dakar Accord between Chad and Sudan was an initiative of President Wade of Senegal. The Government were not asked for any assistance in facilitating the agreement.

We welcome the Dakar Accord and will make clear to both Chad and Sudan that we expect them to abide by the terms of this agreement.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of peace accords reached between the Governments of Sudan and Chad in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [196912]

Meg Munn: There have been several peace accords between Chad and Sudan in the last five years. The most notable of these are the Tripoli Agreement of 8 February 2006, the Khartoum Agreement of 28 August 2006, the Cannes Declaration of 15 February 2007 and the Riyadh Agreement of 3 May 2007. These agreements have not been respected by the Governments of Chad and Sudan.

The Government welcome the new Dakar Accord, signed on 13 March 2008 by President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and President Omar Hassan Bashir of Sudan. We will make clear to both Chad and Sudan that we expect them to abide by the terms of this agreement.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of relations between Sudan and Chad; and if he will make a statement. [196920]

Meg Munn: Tensions between Chad and Sudan remain high following the cross-border fighting in January 2008 and the Chadian rebel incursions into N’Djamena on 2 February 2008. The Dakar Accord, signed in Senegal on 13 March 2008, commits both sides to reconciling their differences, normalising relations and contributing to stability in the region. We will make clear to both Chad and Sudan that we expect them to abide by the terms of this agreement.

Colombia: Armed Conflict

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the evidential basis is for the statement that Justice for Colombia supports the Revolutionary Armed Forces
2 Apr 2008 : Column 1043W
of Colombia made by the Minister of State for South America; and if he will make a statement. [196922]

Dr. Howells: This Government regard an active civil society, able to operate freely and without fear, as a fundamental aspect of any democracy, particularly so in a country as dangerous as Colombia. Trade unionists have an absolutely key role in this.

We welcome the opportunity to work with all those organisations who share our goal of promoting peace and prosperity in Colombia, including the Trades Union Congress and Justice for Colombia. We intend to work closely with British trade unions and their affiliated bodies to uphold the rights and security of trade unionists in Colombia.

Colombia: Trade Unions

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the government of Colombia on the (a) protection of trade unionists in that country and (b) deaths of Antonio Gomez and Carmen Carvajal Ramirez; and if he will make a statement. [196921]

Dr. Howells: We regard human rights defenders and trade unionists as a fundamental part of Colombian civil society. We have repeatedly urged the Colombian government to do their utmost to ensure that these brave people can take forward their essential work safely and with adequate protection. I did so when visiting Colombia in November 2007, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so with the Colombian Vice President in March. I also reiterated the Government’s strong support to a delegation of Colombian trade unionists who visited the UK in early March, a visit co-organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

I have urged the Colombian government to continue with its programme of expanding protection to trade unions and other human rights defenders, including when I spoke to Vice President Santos and the new Colombian Ambassador to London in March 2008. We will continue to discuss with the Colombian TUC and their UK counterparts how this Government can offer its practical support to Colombian trade unionists.

We make regular and numerous representations to the Colombian government on specific cases of abuse of trade unionists. I have asked our Embassy in Bogota to make representations to the Colombian government on the cases of Antonio Gomez and Carmen Carvajal Ramirez, and will write to the hon. Member with the outcome of those representations once the Embassy receives a response. I will also arrange for copies of the letter to be placed in the Library of the House.


2 Apr 2008 : Column 1044W

Credit Cards: Fraud

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government has taken to encourage UK citizens to minimise the risk of credit card fraud whilst abroad. [198126]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website warns British nationals travelling abroad, of known credit card scams and frauds in its country specific Travel Advice pages. In addition, there is general advice on how to avoid credit card fraud while travelling abroad in the travelling-and-living abroad section:


Next Section Index Home Page