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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access stalled following the election of Hamas in January 2006. We continue to call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement the agreement. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about movement and access with the Government of Israel. Most recently,
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What is their response to reports that dozens of patients in the Gaza Strip are still unable to receive medical treatment, in some cases life-saving procedures, due to the continued border closures with Israel and Egypt. [HL52]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Government are deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza. There is a pressing need to overcome the obstacles to reopening Gazas crossings, for humanitarian goods, trade and people. The implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access stalled following the election of Hamas in January 2006. We continue to call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement the agreement. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about movement and access with the Government of Israel. Most recently, on 15 October 2007, we raised the case of students trapped in Gaza, who have been unable to leave Gaza to undertake their respective studies at overseas institutions, including in the UK.
The Government remain firmly committed to Israels security, but we have made it clear that action taken by Israel in response to actions by violent extremists should not cause suffering to innocent Palestinians. Israel has expressed its commitment to avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and we continue to call on it to ensure that any response is in accordance with international law.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials raise this issue with representatives of the North Korean Government at every opportunity. Our ambassador in Pyongyang addressed human rights in a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Jun in Pyongyang on 1 October 2007. He stressed that human rights abuses in North Korea needed to be addressed to allow our relations to expand to their full potential and requested frank discussions in order to move forward on this issue. The head of the Far Eastern Group at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made the same point to the Europe director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pyongyang on 26 September.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We welcome the participation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe in International Election Observation Missions. We greatly value the independence and professionalism of the OSCEs Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and its election observation methodology and equally value the knowledge and experience of parliamentary observers representing the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
We share the concerns of the OSCE about unprecedented Russian restrictions on international observation of their 2 December Duma elections. We believe these restrictions will hamper the work of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe in conducting an effective election-monitoring mission.
What action they are taking to provide assistance to the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions of Somalia amid reports that about 10,000 children are severely malnourished and at risk of death as food prices have increased sharply and the ongoing conflict there has hindered access to those affected. [HL53]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Vadera): The UK has this year made £8.6 million in new commitments to humanitarian operations in Somalia. This includes £600,000 to the UNICEF nutrition programme in southern Somalia, including in the Shabelle regions, and £466,000 to Médecins du Monde for health and nutrition interventions in Lower Shabelle.
Last week, DfIDs regional humanitarian adviser visited the Lower Shabelle region to assess the situation first hand and agrees with the UN estimates that more than 10,000 children require treatment for acute malnutrition. DfID officials were also part of joint UN/Donor meetings with President Yusuf and other Somali leaders at which impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance were discussed. Discussions continue with the Transitional Federal Government and other parties to reduce access problems.
DfID has also committed £l million to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) Humanitarian Response Fund and £3.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Some of this funding will be used to address the needs of malnourished children in Middle and Lower Shabelle.
Whether they will comply with the latest request from the European Court of Human Rights dated 20 October not to return Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka owing to the current security situation there. [HL50]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government responded to the request from the European Court of Human Rights on 31 October 2007 stating that we do not consider that the current situation in Sri Lanka warrants the suspension of removal directions to all Sri Lankan Tamils but we will continue to suspend removal in individual cases where the European Court has issued a Rule 39 indication.
We continue to carefully assess each case on its individual circumstances taking into account relevant case law and the current situation in Sri Lanka before a decision is made to remove from the United Kingdom.
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