Gillian Merron: UK-Cuba relations continue to improve. Our policy, based on mutual respect, aims to encourage a move to a pluralist democracy and full respect for human rights. These are objectives we share with our EU partners.
11. Martin Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Israeli counterpart on the expropriation of 23 square miles of Palestinian land to the east of Jerusalem to build homes for settlers. 
Bill Rammell: We have long made it clear to the Israeli Government that any Israeli settlement activity is not only illegal under international law, it is also in contravention of Israels obligations under the road map and detrimental to the peace process. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary voiced strong opposition to illegal Israeli settlements during his visit to the region on 16-19 November 2008. I also raised the issue during my visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories on 21-23 December 2008.
12. James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of recent political developments in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The continuing political impasse is a direct result of Robert Mugabes abuse of power. We believe that power sharing can work but that Mr. Mugabe is an obstacle to it. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minster and the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown have been clear on this point. But ultimately it is for Zimbabweans, not the UK, to decide what can constitute a durable and sustainable government in Zimbabwe. We will continue with our intense diplomatic activity and our humanitarian commitment continues.
13. David Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely outcome of negotiations in Cyprus on the future governance of the island. 
Caroline Flint: The current negotiations represent the best opportunity Cypriots have ever had to reach a settlement. We fully support the efforts of the two leaders and the UN Special Envoy to Cyprus, Alexander Downer. Progress has been made but it is important that the momentum of the talks is increased. We hope the current process will deliver a settlement all Cypriots can support.
15. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the effects of laws of seditious libel and criminal defamation in foreign countries. 
Gillian Merron: We urge all countries to fulfil their obligations under international law, including under UN human rights conventions. We work to safeguard the international framework which protects and extends the right to freedom of expression and to support change on the ground, along with international, regional and local partners.
17. Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent to which international terrorist activity is linked to extremist activity in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: Those who suffer most from violent extremism in Pakistan are ordinary Pakistanis. However, violent extremism in Pakistan, particularly from global terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda that take haven in the tribal areas, is also a threat to the UK and others. Pakistan is a key ally in defeating these groups.
18. Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of his Departments performance in persuading other countries to subscribe to action to address climate change. 
We assess posts progress twice a year, as part of the FCOs business planning cycle. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) on 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 744W, giving examples of progress.
Since then FCO posts have contributed to the major agreement reached at the December European Council on the EUs ambitious package of climate change and energy legislation, including a 20 per cent. cut in the EUs greenhouse gas emissions (to be increased to 30 per cent. as part of the right international agreement).
Bill Rammell: The Government are extremely concerned with the current violence in Gaza. We are in close contact with all the key players and at the centre of efforts to reach a ceasefire and secure urgent humanitarian assistance. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was instrumental in gaining UN Security Council agreement around a British text, which became Resolution 1860. This now needs to be reflected in reality on the ground. For any ceasefire to be sustainable it must include action to stop illegal arms trafficking into Gaza and to open the crossings into Gaza.
20 Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the arms-clearing project in Guinea-Bissau supported by his Department. 
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary looks forward to a close working relationship with the incoming US Secretary of State following the
Presidents inauguration, which will of course involve face-to-face meetings in the US, UK and elsewhere. He has already spoken to her by telephone.
Caroline Flint: The Czech presidency of the EU began on 1 January and ends on 30 June 2009. It has a full agenda focussing on energy, external and economic issues. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office produces a Command Paper on each EU presidency every six months and this will be laid before the House before the end of January. It will also be placed in the Library of the House and on the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk. The Government have worked very closely with the Czech Government following Prime Minister Topolaneks visit in December of last year.
23. Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the state of relations between Pakistan and India; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: This has been a sensitive time for the region following the Mumbai attacks. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are in contact with their counterparts in India and Pakistan to press the importance of Pakistan and India cooperating fully to bring those responsible to justice, and ensuring this terrible act does not undermine earlier progress towards the normalisation of relations and prevent further constructive dialogue between the two countries.
Bill Rammell: We assess that Iran's level of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been inadequate in a number of critical areas. The IAEA Director General's report of 19 November 2008 highlighted Iran's failure to implement transparency measures including the Additional Protocol; provide substantive information on their alleged studies with a possible military dimension; provide access to the heavy water reactor at Arak on 26 October 2008.
25. Mr. Goodwill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the state of relations between Belarus and the UK; and if he will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint: Following the release of three remaining political prisoners in August 2008, the UK supported the EU decision in October to suspend the visa ban for six months to encourage further reforms.
We have seen some small improvementstwo opposition newspapers are now on sale in small quantities, and an opposition party has been allowed to register with the authorities. However, we continue to encourage the Belarusian Government to take further progress on human rights.
Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed Kashmir with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on 2 September and 24 October 2008. The UK continues to urge both India and Pakistan to seek a lasting resolution to the issue of Kashmir, which takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Daventry of 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1048-49W, on exchange rates, whether the British Council plans to reduce any programmes in consequence of the reduction in purchasing power of its core grant. 
David Miliband: The British Council recognises that the significant weakening of Sterling over the last few months, particularly against US dollar linked currencies, has undermined its purchasing power. In the current year they expect the absolute impact to be equivalent to a £10 million cut in spending capacity or around 8 per cent. of their grant in aid programme spend. In response they will try to preserve as much programme spend as possible, by short term cost savings and, where necessary, by deferring programme spend into the 2009-10 financial year.
Caroline Flint: The economy is currently in recession. Settlement of the Cyprus problem is likely to bring very substantial economic benefits to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The recent International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) report estimated that the benefit for each Cypriot household would be 5,500 euros in average per year during the first seven years after a solution. The full report can be found at:
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people participated in his Departments work placement scheme; in which regions they resided; what proportion attended (a) state and (b) independent schools; and what proportion attended (i) Oxford and Cambridge and (ii) other universities in each of the last 10 years. 
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