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Whether they will offer financial and technical support to the Government of Somaliland for the parliamentary elections scheduled there in March 2005; and what further encouragement the Commission for Africa will extend to Somaliland for its continuing development of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. [HL4491]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): DfID has advised the Somaliland Authorities that we are ready to consider technical support to the parliamentary elections due next year, in collaboration with other donors. It will be for the commissioners to decide on the contents of the Commission for Africa report.
Whether they will make representations to the Government of Israel on humanitarian issues affecting the populations of Gaza and the West Bank, including issues of access to hospitals and medical facilities and to olive groves for the harvesting of this year's crop. [HL4614]
Baroness Amos: The Government, both bilaterally and through the EU, have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our concerns about the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian Territory. Ministers have stressed to the Israeli Government their obligations under international law to avoid causing humanitarian suffering, and to ensure free access by humanitarian agencies in delivering vital humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Whether, following general improvements in the Russian economy and in average prosperity, they will provide continuing aid for the most disadvantaged groups in Russia such as alcoholics, street children, orphans and children with disabilities. [HL4681]
Baroness Amos: As part of DfID's programme in Russia, we are working in two regions through Oblast partnership programmes. These programmes include work on addressing the problems of street children, orphans and children with disabilities:
Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will consult with the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Damascus and Amman to ensure that adequate assistance is afforded to Chaldo-Assyrian Christians who have recently fled from Iraq. [HL4610]
Baroness Amos: DfID is currently in the process of liaising with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to establish a clearer picture of UNHCR's intentions vis-à-vis this group of refugees.
What measures they are taking, in conjunction with the interim Government of Iraq and the United States, to protect the lives of Chaldo-Assyrian Christians from murder, and their church buildings from destruction by bombs. [HL4609]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): UK and US officials in Iraq regularly meet representatives of the Christian communities, as we do other communities, and we have raised our concerns about their treatment with the Iraqi authorities. Our missions in Iraq are monitoring the situation closely. We will continue to support and train the Iraqi security forces to uphold the law of the land and the human rights of all Iraqis, as set down in the transitional administrative law, which remains valid until a new constitution is agreed by an elected Iraqi Assembly after January 2005. We are also supporting various initiatives to encourage dialogue between the representatives of different faiths and sects in Iraq to strengthen co-operation between the many moderates on all sides and to prevent extremists from raising sectarian tensions.
We have joined Christian and Muslim leaders in Iraq in condemning the recent deplorable attacks on Christian churches and communities. We also welcomed a statement from Iraq's senior Shia Muslim leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, calling for an end to the attacks and for the need to respect the rights of Christians and those of other religious faiths and their right to live in Iraq peacefully.
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Whether they consider that an autonomous region near Mosul should be established for the Chaldo-Assyrian ethnic and religious minority; and whether they will ensure that special provision is made for this minority in any future constitution of Iraq. [HL4611]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Iraq's future constitution and state structure is a matter for the Iraqis to debate and decide in the transitional National Assembly to be elected in January 2005. We will urge the Iraqis to ensure that the fundamental rights of all its citizens are protected, regardless of their sect or ethnicity.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: None. During the period for which full details are available financial year 200001 financial year 200304, total UK based Foreign and Commonwealth Office appointments increased by 16 full-time equivalents.
Whether they will make representations to the Government of Israel concerning the plan to withdraw settlements from Gaza and the risk that this will increase settlements in the West Bank contrary to the road map as currently proposed. [HL4593]
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK sees Israel's plan to withdraw all settlements from Gaza and some from the West Bank as a positive step. We also believe both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should implement their obligations under the road map. The road map requires that Israel freeze all settlement activity including the naural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts built since 2001. At their 11 October meeting, EU Foreign Ministers reiterated their view that Israeli withdrawal must be implemented in accordance with the five elements laid down by the European Council in March 2004. One of these elements is that any withdrawal should not involve a transfer of settlement activity to the West Bank. The UK has repeatedly pressed its concerns about continued settlement construction with the Israeli Government, and will continue to do so.
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At the 11 October General Affairs External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting, EU Foreign Ministers expressed the Council's support for the Palestinian elections, which should conform to international standards, and noted the process of voter registration currently underway. The Council also expressed the opinion that the elections should be held in one step in order to expedite the development of accountable structures of government in the Occupied Territories. The European Union stands ready to further support and assist in the Palestinian electoral process.
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