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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the official duties of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in his Department are; how many overseas territories he has
visited since appointment; which overseas territories he plans to visit; what plans he has to visit countries in (a) the Caribbean, (b) South East Asia and (c) Central America; and what role he has in determining who lays a wreath on behalf of the overseas territories at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. 
Gillian Merron: The responsibilities of the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) include the Overseas Territories, South America, Caribbean/Central America, Australasia and the Pacific region, consular policy, Africa, human rights, global issues and the Commonwealth in the House of Commons. Since being appointed in October 2008 I have visited Jamaica and Trinidad.
When the parliamentary question was tabled in February, the portfolio of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the FCO covered the Overseas Territories, Caribbean/Central America, South East Asia, consular policy, UKTI, protocol, human resources and diversity in the FCO, as well as leading on Africa, human rights, global issues and the Commonwealth in the House of Commons.
Overseas engagements for Government Ministers are kept under constant review. However, owing to the importance of our diplomatic relations with other states, it is not practice to announce ministerial visits until they are confirmed.
The question of Overseas Territory representatives laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday from 2009 is currently under consideration by the relevant Government Departments, including the FCO.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with NATO counterparts on the possible accession of (a) Georgia and (b) Ukraine to NATO. 
Caroline Flint: At the Bucharest Summit in April, NATO Heads of State and Government agreed that Georgia and Ukraine would become members of NATO. On 19 August NATO Foreign Ministers met in extraordinary session to discuss the situation in Georgia, and reaffirmed the Bucharest decision. In December, NATO Foreign Ministers will make a first assessment of Georgia and Ukraines progress towards membership.
Gillian Merron: The theft of oil ('oil bunkering') from producing states deprives governments and their people of the benefit of their natural resource and can exacerbate the risk of conflict. This is particularly so in the Niger Delta: although overall volumes of stolen oil are relatively small (estimated at about 2 per cent. of total production), oil bunkering is an enabler of militant activity.
The Government are determined to explore solutions to this problem and are aware there are parallels with efforts to tackle 'blood diamonds'. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is investigating the development of a tracking system for identifying stolen crude oil, similar to the Kimberley Process, which would certify the origin of crude exports. There are two significant initial challenges to be overcome: establishing the scientific capability and the commercial viability of such a process.
FCO Strategic Programme Funding is enabling research into a technical solution by the University of Plymouth. This three-year project intends to establish a biometric database of Nigerian crude oils and develop a protocol to enable testing of crude oil specimens against this database. The FCO is also lobbying the international oil companies to contribute technical expertise to this research and to reduce the commercial barriers to such testing being introduced on a wide scale.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff in his Department did not achieve an acceptable assessment grade in their annual report in the latest reporting year for which figures are available. 
Gillian Merron: Under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's performance improvement procedures unacceptable performance has to be addressed as soon as it occurs rather than waiting for the appraisal cycle to be completed. Annual report markings therefore only record cases of poor performance current at the end of the appraisal year.
For the appraisal period 2007-08 15 staff (0.25 per cent.) did not achieve an acceptable mark in their annual report. The FCO does not centrally hold records on the appraisal markings of locally employed staff at its posts overseas. This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of Russian redeployment of ballistic missiles to sites close to NATO member countries' borders; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met President Kagame on 1 November with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, during which he urged President Kagame to back efforts to find a political solution to the problems in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the government of Rwanda on the control of cross-border trade between Rwanda and North Kivu; and what reports he has received on whether such trade provides revenues for Laurent Nkunda's CNDP forces. 
Gillian Merron: There have been on-going discussions with the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the issue of control of cross border trade, including discussion about methods to encourage such trade out of the shadow economy and into the formal economy.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of the continuing presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia on the security situation in the country; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: Ethiopian troops have maintained a presence in Somalia since their intervention in December 2006 at the invitation of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Ethiopian troops work alongside Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) security forces protecting the airport, seaport, presidential palace and other key locations in the city. They are a key target for insurgents and those hostile to the Transitional Federal Government and to the presence of foreign troops in Somalia.
The international community has urged Ethiopia to withdraw its troops as soon as possible. The Ethiopian Government have confirmed their wish to do so. Ethiopian discussions with the Somalis on managing troop withdrawal have contributed to the Djibouti Agreement and the decision by the key parties to implement a cease-fire from 5 November 2008.
Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department is providing to peace negotiations between the transitional federal government and opposition groups in Somalia. 
Gillian Merron: The peace negotiations between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the main political opposition group, the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia began in late May 2008 and are ongoing. The Djibouti Agreement, reached on 9 June and signed on 19 August 2008, presents the best hope for peace in Somalia for many years. On 26 October, the parties to the agreement announced plans to form a Unity Government and to implement a ceasefire from 5 November 2008.
The Government have provided political support and encouragement to the parties by engaging with key interlocutors and participants in the talks through staff at the British High Commission in Nairobi and the British Embassy in Addis Ababa. Our staff work closely
with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, who brokered the talks, and the UN Political Office for Somalia, based in Nairobi, as well as directly with the Somalis.
During the current financial year, the Government have committed £1 million to support dialogue in Somalia, of which £500,000 has been allocated to local dialogue projects implemented by the non-governmental organisation Interpeace and £500,000 has been allocated through the UN to supporting the national level Djibouti peace process.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in increasing the number of African Union troops in Somalia over the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: Approximately 1,800 Ugandan troops formed the initial deployment of the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). In February 2008 a Burundian battalion arrived in Mogadishu, with a second battalion arriving in October 2008. The additional troops have increased the total number of AU troops to approximately 3,500.
Gillian Merron: The UK engages regularly with various UN agencies, including those concerned with human rights, humanitarian affairs, peacekeeping operations, safety and security and with the UN Development Programme, as well as other members of the UN Security Council, on Somalia. We also have close working relations with the UN Political Office for Somalia, based in Nairobi.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the proposed extension of the European Unions Generalised System of Preference Plus agreement with Sri Lanka when it expires in December 2008; and if he will make a statement. 
On 18 October the European Commission initiated an investigation into Sri Lankas effective implementation of certain human rights conventions required in order to benefit from the special incentive arrangement for good governance and sustainable development (Generalised System of Preference Plus (GSP+)).
As set out in the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) Regulation, GSP+ preferences shall continue to be granted from 1 January 2009 to any country subject to an investigation until the date of conclusion of such investigation.
In order that the GSP+ scheme continues as a credible instrument for promoting good governance we are committed to ensuring that recipient countries effectively implement the core human rights conventions.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the report of the seminar on stem cell research organised by the British Embassy in Israel on 26 and 27 March 2008 to be published; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has no plans to publish this report. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) take the lead on the issue. My officials have contacted DIUS to confirm whether the report will be officially published.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the final report of the Ceasefire Joint Monitoring Commission into the events of May 2008 in Abyei to be published; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The Force Commander of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has prepared a draft Ceasefire Joint Monitoring Commission (CJMC) report into the events of May in Abyei. We understand agreement and publication of the report has been delayed by representatives on the CJMC from both sides, the National Congress Party and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the level of compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1556 on the provision of arms to Sudan; what recent reports he has received on the maintenance of the arms embargo; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: In its latest report of 3 October 2007, the UN Panel of Experts (which was established by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1591 to monitor UNSCR 1556 on the provision of arms to Darfur) assessed that violations of the arms embargo continued, both by the Government of Sudan and non-state armed groups, during the period of the report (29 September 2006 to 29 August 2007). The panel reported that heavy weapons (artillery pieces), small arms, ammunition and other military equipment was entering Darfur from other countries. The panel further reported that the Government of Sudan had not submitted the necessary requests for approval to the UN to enable the movement of weapons, ammunition or other military equipment into Darfur, thereby knowingly violating the provisions of the Resolution.
The UK continues to request that the UN extend its arms embargo on Darfur to all of Sudan, but not all Security Council members agree. The EU has implemented an arms embargo on the whole of Sudan via Common Position 2005/411/CFSP.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had during his recent visit to Syria about Syrian support for (a) Hamas and (b) Hezbollah; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: During his visit to Damascus on 17-18 November, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised with his interlocutors the importance of all actors in the region working for peace and stability. He stressed that those who sought to achieve political goals through the use of violence, and those who supported them in doing so, were an obstacle to peace. He specifically raised Hamas and Hezbollah in this context.
Caroline Flint: I wrote to the Chairs of the Lords Select Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee on 30 October confirming that technical discussions on detailed Lisbon Treaty implementation issues have been suspended. Under the Slovenian presidency in the first half of 2008 a series of technical issues were identified for implementation workas has happened on every EU amending treaty to date. The Government will continue to keep Parliament updated if and when a presidency proposes to restart any such discussions.
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