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Written Answers

Monday, 1 November 2004.

Somaliland: Elections

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Palestinian Territory: Humanitarian Issues

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Now the olive harvest has begun, DfID will monitor that situation closely too.

Russia: Aid for the Disadvantaged

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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:

Iraq: Chaldo-Assyrian Christians

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.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Staffing

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: None. During the period for which full details are available financial year 2000–01 financial year 2003–04, total UK based Foreign and Commonwealth Office appointments increased by 16 full-time equivalents.

Israel: Settlements

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

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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Palestinian Authority: Elections

Lord Sterling of Plaistow asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have, both bilaterally and through the EU, pressed the Palestinian Authority to hold early, credible and comprehensive elections.

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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