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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The first such report, covering the period January-June 1997, was published yesterday and a copy has been placed in the Libraries of the House. The report includes a foreword written by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was pleased to announce that we have secured a commitment from a number of leading companies to lend members of their staff to this department to work on specific promotions or projects overseas for periods of a few months. These people will provide valuable expertise to support and promote the activities of the commercial sections of our overseas posts. Each attachment will have a specific focus, such as privatisation projects, inward investment promotion, management of commercial promotions, marketing of UK financial services, or identifying market opportunities in specific sectors.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs welcomed the wholehearted support for this initiative of the CBI. They have encouraged a number of their members to participate from the outset, including British Airways, BOC, ICL, Wimpey, British Aerospace, BT, British Steel, BNFL, BUPA, HSBC and Glaxo Wellcome. Other companies have expressed a strong interest, and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is confident that more attachments will be arranged in the coming months.
This is a commitment to a rolling programme of attachments to strengthen our partnership with business. In the longer term we hope that companies will be able to second suitable staff to serve as part of the established commercial teams in overseas posts, and in return provide opportunities for this department's staff to hone their business skills by hosting secondments.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are considering whether the United Kingdom should participate in a variety of international bodies in the context of the comprehensive review of expenditure. Once that review has been completed, we shall be better placed to take a decision on United Kingdom membership of the Council of Europe's partial agreement for a European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North/South Centre).
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We support the creation of an International Criminal Court. Our policy on various detailed matters relating to the jurisdiction and functioning of the court is still under consideration.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are in regular contact with all parties to the conflict and continue to stress the need to resolve the civil war through a comprehensive negotiated settlement. We note that the 21 April Peace Agreement contains positive elements, notably the provisions on respect for human rights and self-determination for the south, but that the main opposition groups fighting the government are not party to the agreement. We have also welcomed the news that the Sudanese Government have accepted the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development's Declaration of Principles as the basis for talks with the SPLA and look forward to early negotiations. We fully support IGAD's efforts to bring peace to Sudan and are ready to consider any way to help that process.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We welcome efforts by the OAU and regional states to resolve the conflict in Sudan through dialogue. With our European partners, we have encouraged regional leaders, particularly President Moi, who currently chairs the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to pursue these efforts.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The last visit to the region under emergency rule in Turkey was made by our Ambassador in November 1996. He visited Diyarbakir, Mardin and Midyat and was able to converse with contacts in Turkish. He was accompanied to some, but not all, calls by a Turkish security escort. The subject of village clearances is one which every visit to the region addresses. The next visit to the region is planned for early September, again by Turkish-speaking staff. Our Embassy is in regular contact by telephone with human rights and other organisations in the region.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are deeply concerned about the flow of heroin to the UK, the great majority of which is produced in or transits Turkey from opium poppy grown in South West Asia. We work closely with our EU partners and are also developing valuable collaboration with the Turkish authorities to tackle drug trafficking and target the criminals behind it. We are following with interest the Turkish investigations into alleged links between parliamentarians and people involved in the illicit drug trade.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The EU has condemned the use of force in Cambodia and pressed for a return to constitutional government. It has called on the Cambodians to reaffirm their commitment to hold free and fair elections in May 1998. The EU is undertaking contacts with King Sihanouk, Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen, and supports the mediation initiatives of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
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