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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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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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