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Laser Weapons

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have no reason to believe that laser weapons are any less safe than other, more traditional weapons.

Use of laser weapons is governed by the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons), which prohibits weapons which are specifically designed to cause permanent blindness. Thus laser weapons' design and not their deployment is restricted. Space-or-aircraft-based lasers not specifically designed to blind are not prohibited by international law.

Against that background, we have no plans to take further steps to control their use.

Hungary: NATO Membership

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of various allegations, none of which have been proven. We have no reason to doubt the legitimacy of the Hungarian people's resounding endorsement of their Government's decision to apply for membership of NATO.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Under the terms of a constitutional amendment passed by the Hungarian Parliament earlier this year, a referendum on

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a single issue is valid if either a minimum of 25 per cent. of the whole electorate voted in favour or a minimum of 25 per cent. vote against. The results of the Hungarian referendum on NATO membership were over 85 per cent. in favour from a turn-out of over 49 per cent. of eligible voters. Thus more than 42 per cent. of the whole electorate voted in favour. This result represents an overwhelming endorsement of Hungary's NATO membership by the Hungarian people.

NATO Command Structure

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, before deciding whether to agree next month to the enlargement of NATO, they will state their view on: (a) the reorganisation of the NATO command structure to ensure a larger European role throughout; (b) the repartition of the costs of the proposed enlargement among applicant states, European members of NATO, and the United States; and (c) whether NATO should be one element in the United States global strategy as recently suggested by President Clinton, or on the other hand an alliance under full civilian control of like-minded states.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO Defence Ministers agreed the reorganisation of NATO's command structure at the North Atlantic Council on 3 December. The new command structure will give the Alliance the arrangements it needs to be able to perform the wide range of roles which the new strategic environment demands.

Costs of enlargement to common-funded budgets will be borne in accordance with long-standing cost sharing arrangements, modified to take into account budget shares of new members (Poland 2.48 per cent.; Czech Republic 0.9 per cent.; Hungary 0.65 per cent.). NATO's initial assessment of the costs in question is some $1.5 billion over 10 years.

We regard NATO as the bedrock of European security and a key component in our foreign and defence policies. The place of NATO in the United States Government's assessment of its global responsibilities is a matter for that Government.

Argentina: Non-NATO Ally Status

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether President Clinton or any other member of the United States Administration discussed with the British Government their recent decision to allot to Argentina the honorific status of "special non-NATO ally"; what they understand this status to imply beyond making "surplus NATO hardware" available to Argentina; and whether "special non-NATO ally" status has any meaning for actual NATO allies, including the United Kingdom.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The decision to grant Major Non-NATO Ally status ("MNNA") to

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Argentina is a matter for the American and Argentine governments.

We were aware of the US plans to grant MNNA to Argentina and discussed the issue with the Americans at the time.

The status does not give Argentina privileged access to US or NATO defence equipment. The US have stated publicly that it reflects Argentina's contribution to international peacekeeping activity.

As the name suggests, this is a non-NATO status which is essentially bilateral. It does not have any bearing on NATO allies.

NATO Role in Central Asia

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role they see for NATO in Central Asia.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO is involved in Central Asia with countries which used to be members of the former Soviet Union and which are now Partners of NATO, and (except in the case of Tajikistan) in Partnership for Peace. As elsewhere, NATO's Partnership for Peace promotes stability and security. The newly formed Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to which all the Central Asian Republics belong, also makes a valuable contribution to this end.

Palestinians in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will use the negotiations for an Association Agreement between the European Union and Israel to achieve free movement of both exports and imports for the Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The EU/Israel Association Agreement was signed on 20 November 1995. Once national ratification procedures have been completed, the EU will then need to take a Concluding Decision to allow the agreement to enter into force. The trade provisions of the agreement came into force on 1 January 1996 under an EC interim agreement.

The UK and its EU partners have pressed Israel to relax all restrictions on free movement of goods and people from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. At the UK's suggestion, the EU has also engaged Israel in a dialogue aimed at finding practical solutions to the problems faced by the Palestinian economy as a result of such restrictions.

Mr. Ismail Besikci

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the Government of Turkey concerning the case of Mr. Ismail Besikci, the author of 33 scholarly works

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    on the Kurds in Turkey, their culture and society, who has been sentenced to over 100 years in prison and is now in Bursa prison, and concerning the banning of his books.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Embassy in Ankara last made representations on Mr. Besikci's behalf in July 1996. We have expressed our concern to the Turkish authorities about his imprisonment and about the banning and impounding of his publications.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have studied the reports and views of the Council and Committees of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, the European Commission on Human Rights, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, concerning the assassination of Mr. M. Sincar of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 4 September 1993, the subsequent imprisonment of four elected members of that Assembly, the flight into exile of six other members and the debarring for life from legal practice of Mr. M. Alinak and Mr. S. Yurtdas, for which they were qualified; what conclusions they draw from the above; and what actions they propose to take both through international organisations and directly with the Government of Turkey.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of the reports and views cited in the question. We view with concern the proscription of political parties for the peaceful advocacy of their views. We further regard the banning of the Democracy Party (DEP) in 1994 as inconsistent with the aims of democratic pluralism to which participating states of the OSCE aspire.

We continue to monitor the cases of the four DEP MPs closely, and regularly raise their convictions with the Turkish authorities.

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