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29 Jan 1996 : Column WA95

Written Answers

Monday, 29th January 1996.

Jerusalem: Access Restrictions

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have protested, or will do so, against any attempts by Israel to cut off Jerusalem from the West Bank, particularly during the Palestinian elections; and whether they have made representations concerning the refusal by the Jerusalem Planning Authorities of permission for even one new Palestinian-owned hotel since 1967.

Lord Chesham: With our European partners we continue to raise the issue of access restrictions between the various part of the Occupied Territories. As to the possible impact upon the Palestinian elections, we await the report of the EU Electoral Unit, which would have observed events at the time. We understand that an area of East Jerusalem has been "zoned" for hotel development and a Palestinian businessman has received planning permission for a new hotel.

Central Asia: UK Policy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the results of the Foreign Secretary's recent journeys in Central Asia, and what is their policy towards this area.

Lord Chesham: My right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary's visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan underlined the UK's interest in strengthening bilateral relations with the newly independent states of the region, and our support for their continuing programme of political and economic reform. In Uzbekistan, the Foreign Secretary drew attention to the importance of co-operation in fields as far apart as the work of the BBC and the British Council, the fight against drugs, promotion of human rights and protection of the environment.

The visit also provided a clear signal of support for British industry's growing involvement in trade and investment activities in the region. These countries provide important new markets for British companies, which, in turn, can make a valuable contribution to the region's economic development and prosperity. An Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was signed with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Government's policy towards the newly independent states of the region is based on support for their sovereignty and independence. Since 1993 we have opened six new, small embassies in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus. They are there to promote British interests; helping British companies win new business and encouraging the development of stable, market-based democracies.

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Caspian Sea: Exploitation of Oil Resources

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the degree of their collaboration with the United States of America in matters concerning oil exploitation and pipeline development in and around the Caspian Sea, and whether this collaboration requires them to act in accordance with the United States' unilaterally declared "embargo" on economic relations with Iran, which they have in general not done, and whether this "embargo" on economic relations with Iran is in accordance with the provisions, etc., of the World Trade Organisation.

Lord Chesham: The exploitation and development of the Caspian Sea's oil reserves is a matter for the littoral states. The circumstances under which one member of the World Trade Organisation may take measures which affect the trade of another member are set out in GATT Articles XX and XXI.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a legal regime for the Caspian Sea and for the exploitation of its resources has yet been agreed; whether in their view the status of that sea and its seabed is a matter to be resolved by the littoral states of the Caspian Sea themselves; whether they consider it appropriate that the Azerbaijan Government should dispose of oil from the seabed of the Caspian without consulting the governments of the other littoral states; and meanwhile under what legal regime the relevant British firms are preparing to engage in exploitation of the oil resources there.

Lord Chesham: The legal status of the Caspian Sea and its seabed is not clearly defined in international law. There is, as yet, no generally agreed view of its status among the littoral states, to whom it falls to resolve the matter. Her Majesty's Government consider that, whatever the outcome of the debate on the Caspian Sea's status, commitments under existing contracts on exploitation of the Caspian's resources should not be called into question.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which government is leading Western policy with regard to oil and gas exploitation and pipelines from Central Asia (including the Caspian) on to the world market, in what does this policy consist, and which governments and companies are participating.

Lord Chesham: The development and export of the region's resources are a matter for the governments of the countries concerned. Various consortia of local and Western companies have been formed, by agreement with those countries in the region directly involved, to exploit the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian and Central Asia.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they ascertained the views of the Organisation of the Caspian Sea littoral states before

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    supporting BP's plans for exploitation of the seabed of the Caspian Sea, whether Russia and Iran are as yet members of that organisation, and whether their agreement to BP's proposals is assured.

Lord Chesham: We understand that the proposal for an organisation of Caspian Sea littoral states was advanced at the initiative of Iran, during a meeting attended by the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran in November 1995. It was envisaged that the organisation would deal primarily with economic matters and that all the Caspian littoral states would be members. We are not aware of any follow-up to this initiative.

Oil Dispersant Policy: Review

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the conclusions of their review of oil dispersant policy.

Lord Lucas: In April 1993 the Government announced that it would conduct a review of oil dispersant policy. Two scientific reports were commissioned and published; we prepared a consultation paper setting out proposed improvements which was circulated to over 600 bodies. Sixty-four responses were received. We have responded on issues where suggestions were made; in general, there was broad agreement to our plans, and we have now prepared a final report (Testing, Approval and Use of Oil Dispersants--Final Report of the Government Review) completing the review.

We have concluded that it would be fully justified to retain oil dispersants as the UK's primary means of combating oil spills at sea, in order to protect economic and environmental resources, although oil dispersants may not be appropriate in all instances. All products will continue to be required to pass efficacy and toxicity tests. These tests will, in future, incorporate some minor improvements designed further to protect the marine environment.

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has initiated the development of protocols, in conjunction with the industry, that will enable bioremediation products to be licensed in the UK. These could in due course, make an important contribution to clean-up operations. There will also be new arrangements for labelling products in line with our policies on openness.

In carrying out the review my right honourable friend has also managed to achieve modest deregulatory gains by enabling manufacturers to submit their own test results. My right honourable friend also intends to publish a booklet explaining the approval process, which will include a code of good spraying practice. A copy of the final report has been placed in the Library of the House.

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Mr. David Hart

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mr. David Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence, is in any way funded by organisations in the United States or by non-governmental organisations in this country.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): No.

Gulf and Caspian Areas: Anglo-American Co-operation

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What currently is the state of association between British and United States forces in the Gulf area, and whether Her Majesty's Government are in any way, formally or informally, bound to co-operation, military or other, with the USA in that area and in the area of the Caspian, and if so in what way.

Earl Howe: There are no formal UK/US Government to Government arrangements in operation in the Gulf area or in the area of the Caspian. UK and US forces participate in UN operations in the Gulf in support of the UN Special Commission (UNSPCOM) and the UN Iraq/Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM). UK and US forces also operate as part of the coalition Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the no fly zone operation which exists to deter Iraqi repression of the civilian population in Southern Iraq. The RN ARMILLA patrol operates with the US Navy and others in enforcing the UN sanctions imposed against Iraq. In addition UK and US forces regularly participate together in multinational exercises in the Gulf area.

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