HL Deb 29 November 2004 vol 667 cc281-94

3.50 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"I should like to make a Statement on Ukraine and the Middle East. Let me deal first with Ukraine. The international Election Observer Mission, led by the OSCE, has concluded that the presidential elections held in Ukraine on 21 November were flawed. On this basis we cannot accept that the process was either free or fair. The Ukrainian Parliament voted on Saturday, by a two-thirds majority, for the elections to be re-run. The Ukrainian Supreme Court has suspended official publication of the results and will today begin its hearing of opposition challenges to them.

"Meanwhile, the situation in the country remains fragile with large-scale protests, strikes, blockades of government buildings and civil disobedience. We urge all parties, including the authorities, to continue to show restraint. Our ambassador in Kiev is seeing the Ukrainian Interior Minister this afternoon with a message to that effect.

"We are giving active backing to the efforts of the Presidency of the European Union, High Representative Javier Solana, and the presidents of Poland and Lithuania to resolve the situation. I spoke again to Mr Solana this morning.

"Let me make this clear. In any democratic election, the decision itself is one for the voters concerned, and them alone. But the international community has a clear right and responsibility, under obligations accepted by the Government of Ukraine, to ensure that the process is a fair one and that the outcome reflects the will of the people.

"I turn now to Iran. Over the past two years, my French and German counterparts and I, working with the International Atomic Energy Agency, have led efforts to bring Iran into compliance with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Breaches of these obligations, including significant failures to disclose details of its activities, have led to widespread anxiety in the international community about Iran's real intentions. Iran does have the right to pursue a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, but it is legally barred from pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

"We three Foreign Ministers, the so-called E3, visited Tehran on 21 October last year. On 5 and 6 November this year, officials from the E3, the EU and Iran reached an agreement in Paris under which Iran would suspend all its activities related to the most sensitive nuclear technologies; that is, the enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel. It is these technologies that allow for the production of weapons-grade material. The suspension would mean that negotiations can begin on long-term arrangements for Iran's civil nuclear programme. The Paris agreement requires that those arrangements should include objective guarantees that Iran's purposes are exclusively peaceful. I have placed a copy of the agreement in the Library.

"In parallel, under the agreement negotiations would begin on areas where Europe and Iran could co-operate, including on technology and commercial co-operation, and on political and security issues of mutual interest. The European Union and Iran would also resume negotiations on a trade and co-operation agreement which had been held up because of European concerns about the nuclear issue.

"I spoke to my Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazzi, last Tuesday, and to Iran's chief negotiator, Dr Hassan Rouhani, by telephone last Friday. I stressed to both of them the importance of implementing quickly the Paris agreement in full. Following further talks in Vienna yesterday, Iran has now written to the IAEA promising that 20 sets of centrifuge components, which Iran had sought to exclude from the suspension, would now be included. The head of the agency, Dr Mohamed E1 Baradei, is therefore able to state to the board today that suspension is being fully implemented. We tabled a resolution to the IAEA last night which is now under discussion with the board and I have just learnt that the resolution has been agreed by consensus in Vienna.

"Let me now turn to the conference on Iraq which I attended last Monday and Tuesday in the Egyptian city of Sharm-el-Sheikh. The conference brought together representatives from the interim Iraqi Government and from Iraq's neighbours, the G8, China and others including the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. I pay tribute to my colleague the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed About Gheit, for his skilful and effective preparation and chairmanship of the meeting. I am placing a copy of the final communiqué in the Library.

"As the House will be aware, in the last two and a half years I have participated in many international discussions on Iraq, in the United Nations and elsewhere. Many of these debates have been acrimonious and difficult. The Sharm-el-Sheikh conference, in contrast, marked a real break with that. There was a determination by all concerned to put the past behind us. For example, not a single delegate proposed delaying the elections in Iraq due on 30 January. The conference sent a clear and unanimous signal of support for the political process in Iraq, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546, and specifically for those elections.

"In my own intervention at the conference I explained that we will be working for successful elections in Iraq through efficient election administration, on which the Iraqis and the UN are doing exceptional work in difficult circumstances; promoting full participation by all parts of Iraqi society, regardless of ethnic or sectarian background; and working for the best possible security.

"At the conference Iraq's neighbours also agreed to intensify their co-operation to control their borders with Iraq so as to stop infiltration by terrorists and insurgents. Interior Ministers will be meeting in Tehran tomorrow to pursue this.

"Directly after the Iraq conference, last Wednesday and Thursday I visited Israel and the Occupied Territories. In Israel I had several hours of highly constructive talks with my counterpart, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and with Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; Leader of the Opposition Shimon Peres; and a wide range of Israeli parliamentarians.

"In Ramallah, in the Occupied Territories, I laid a wreath on the grave of the late president Yasser Arafat. I saw Prime Minister Abu Ala; chairman of the PLO Abu Mazen; and Ministers Nabil Sha'ath, Salam Fayyad and Sa'eb Erekat.

"The last few years have been profoundly tragic and depressing for Israelis and Palestinians alike, with many deaths and injuries on both sides, and a climate of fear and suspicion. For those in the region most dawns in the recent past have proved to be false. But I have to tell the House that the change of atmosphere for the better on both sides is now palpable.

"Several factors have contributed to this: Prime Minister Sharon's courageous plan for disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank; the opportunity for fresh elections within the Palestinian Authority; and President Bush's explicit commitment during the visit to Washington of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to use America's political capital to give new impetus to the road map. Everywhere I went, there was a real appreciation for the Prime Minister's and all the United Kingdom's efforts to assist the peace process, as well as for our wider work in the region.

"The immediate priority is the Palestinian Authority presidential elections on 9 January. The United Kingdom, both bilaterally and through the European Union, will provide material support for those elections and will participate in an EU observation mission.

"Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom told me that for those elections, Israel would ensure freedom of movement and remove any other obstacles as far as security permitted, and allow residents of East Jerusalem to vote. He confirmed that the Israeli Government would want to operate according to broadly the same arrangements as were agreed for the 1996 Palestinian elections, and said that Israel would accept international monitoring for the elections. I also discussed these issues with members of the Palestinian Election Commission in Ramallah.

"The Palestinian Ministers I met during my visit readily acknowledged the need to rise to the challenges presented by Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank, and to exploit the opportunity for progress which we now have. They were conscious of the need for thoroughgoing reforms of Palestinian institutions as a crucial step in building the conditions for a viable democratic Palestinian state.

"I was encouraged by the strong commitment on the part of the new Palestinian leadership to improving security arrangements in the Occupied Territories. They described this to me as a commitment to make a '100 per cent' effort on security, and they recognised that such an effort is vital for dealing with the rejectionists and terrorists who may seek to derail progress in future peace negotiations, and for maintaining order and security in the Palestinian territories themselves, particularly in the run-up to the elections.

"I made clear our continuing strong support for Palestinian security reform. I visited the central operations room in Ramallah which the United Kingdom has financed and was able to observe the security effort which the Palestinians were putting in place.

"We in the international community, as friends of the Israelis and Palestinians, now need to do all we can to help them seize the opportunity for progress and to restart the peace process laid out in the road map and in UNSCR 13/97, leading to a secure state of Israel and a viable state of Palestine.

"And I think that the whole House would agree that ending the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians would be a huge contribution to stability and peace, not just in the region but worldwide. It is for that reason that this is of the highest priority for the British Government".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I am exceptionally grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement today. I know that she has a very tough schedule and fitting in Statements here with the demands of her day job as Minister for the Middle East must be difficult at all times. But these are fast-moving issues and it is right that your Lordships should be kept as up to date as possible with them. I have a number of questions—I hope not too many—and I shall take the subjects in the order in which they appear in the Statement.

First, on the Ukraine, does the Minister agree that it is not in our interests to see the Ukraine split in the way threatened, with talk of autonomy for the eastern provinces? Does she further agree that it is not in our interests for the situation to be seen as a kind of EU versus Russia line up? Can she assure the House that nothing is being done by the European Union High Representative in Kiev, Mr Solana, and his colleagues to depict the issue as one of Europe versus Russia and that everything is being done to assure both the Ukraine and the Russian Federation that they have a longer-term welcome within the European system as prosperous democracies on a partnership basis with the European Union—or, in the case of Ukraine, on a membership basis.

Can the Minister say what proportion of western Europe's natural gas is piped through the Ukraine? Obviously when political instability is threatened, it is very worrying. It could be the makings of another energy shock, which would be very unwelcome.

Secondly, as to Iran, am I to understand that the voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment is now fully agreed? Has any kind of time limit been placed upon it? Have the centrifuge sets been sealed off or merely left open for inspection by the IAEA? Can the Minister be more explicit than the Statement as to what guarantees the British Government have given by way of assistance with civil nuclear programmes and other trade and commercial offerings? What guarantees have the French given? What guarantees have been given by the EU as a whole? It is important that we should know. Have the American Government expressed any view on this or do they, as has been suggested, remain a little wary of the deal? Can the Minister comment on that issue?

While we are discussing Iran, please could we have back the boats that the Iranians stole in the Shatt al Arab and have not returned to us? They were brand new and expensive equipment.

Turning, thirdly, to Iraq and the talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh, what are the Arab nations in the Mahgreb and the Gulf going to do to support Iraq's move back to normality and peace? Will they produce more money? There is a great deal of money around in the Gulf at the moment because of the high oil price. Was there any reference to a military or peacekeeping force of some kind? There has been mention in the press of an Islamic stabilisation force; was that issue raised at Sharm-el-Sheikh?

Was it suggested that other countries with strong Muslim interests—internally, or with Muslim neighbours next door—should be approached and brought into the operation? The countries suggested are India, the Russian Federation with its huge Muslim minority, Turkey with its Muslim majority, Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia. All these countries have been mentioned as potential helpers. Is it not time to begin mobilising them as well? Was that suggestion raised at Sharm-el-Sheikh?

Can the Minister assure the House that we are 100 per cent in support of 30 January as the election date in Iraq? What do the Government make of the disturbing report of the local commanding officer in Mosul that the police force there has collapsed having been violently attacked by the insurgents? He does not believe that it will be possible to conduct an election at all. Obviously policing will be essential for free elections on 30 January.

The story is still running that more British troops—together with more American troops, more Japanese troops and others—are about to be sent to Iraq. Is that correct? We recognise that more troops of one kind or another will be needed in the run up to the elections, but can we have the facts?

As to Israel and Palestine, a matter of central concern to us all, did or did not Mr Solana meet the Hamas people—I could not quite make out the statements from his office—and, if so, when did he meet them? Was it recently?

Proposals for elections have followed the death of Arafat. Are they to be solely presidential elections or is it proposed to hold also parliamentary and local elections? If such elections are not to be held along with the presidential elections on 9 January, when will they be held?

Has any more detailed work been carried out on the road map? We all want the road map to have a new impetus but there are some real dilemmas—for instance, reconciling the huge and permanent-looking Israeli settlements right across the West Bank area with the hope for a viable Palestinian state. Is it not important to get these issues absolutely clear before we plunge forward and raise people's hopes by having conferences and so on? We should approach this matter with great attention to detail, in which the devil nearly always lies, before we take up bold public postures.

Do the Government have a view on the successor to Mr Arafat? Is it right that Mr Mahmoud Abbas will be the only candidate, or is Mr Barghouti going to put in his candidacy from an Israeli gaol? Obviously the elections will be decided by the Palestinians but how do the Government view the situation? Those are the questions I wish to put to the noble Baroness.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Statement. I hesitate to add to the large number of questions which have already been posed. We recognise the immense effort that the Foreign Secretary and Foreign Office Ministers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in this House, have been putting into the complex issues of the Middle East. We welcome the constructive progress that they are now able to report on a number of fronts.

We particularly welcome the progress on Iran. While recognising it is not the end of the story by a long way, the concerted action of the Foreign Secretaries of the three largest states in the European Union, with the support of the EU as a whole, has led to real progress. Where do we go from here? How much continuous monitoring of the agreement offered by the Iranians is seen as a part of the way forward? I support the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in seeking greater detail of what the American response is likely to be. The noises out of Washington so far have not been encouraging and its level of support for the EU initiative has been low. What further opportunities may now open up for widening political dialogue and for encouraging an opening of society and democracy in Iran, given the evident tensions between the current clerical regime and many of its own people?

On Ukraine, so far we have relatively happy news to report. How do the Government see this being handled from now on? Is the OSCE the best framework through which to operate and, if so, how can we strengthen its role? Again, one welcomes the role of a number of EU member governments, particularly the Poles and Lithuanians, in providing mediating roles within this quite complex situation. Some of us have been distressed—indeed, appalled—by the way in which heads of government of the largest EU states—Britain, France, Germany and Italy—have appeared, during the past 18 months, to be competing to have a special relationship with President Putin. Given the delicacy of the relationship with Russia over Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the southern Caucasus, this seems another area in which it is evident that there is the strongest possible argument for a common EU approach.

On Iraq, we all welcome progress towards elections. Can the Minister reassure us that it is intended that the elections will take place throughout Iraq? Can she tell us a little more about how post-election arrangements are envisaged and whether it is assumed that British troops will have to stay for a considerable period after the election?

Finally, on Israel, the Statement is encouraging but a little one-sided. It talks about the rejectionists on the Palestinian side but not about the problem of rejectionists on the Israeli side. My colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked about the problem of the settlements in the West Bank. All of us who believe firmly that the long-term security of Israel requires a stable and acceptable Palestinian state recognise that the settlements and the barrier have also to be dealt with, which means we have to stick to the road map and not allow it to be withdrawn. The Statement's last paragraph refers to, a secure state of Israel and a viable state of Palestine". How far has the Foreign Secretary been able to persuade Israeli interlocutors that this also requires Israeli concessions?

4.12 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for their kind remarks. The part of the Statement that deals with Iran, Iraq and Palestine/Israel represents work in progress. A great deal more needs to be done, as I hope the Statement implied. Indeed, I shall be leaving your Lordships' House to go directly to a meeting in The Hague on these very matters.

Let me turn first to what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said about Ukraine. He asked me to make a clear statement that the break-up of Ukraine was not in our interests. We do not believe that the Ukrainians really want their country to break up. We do not believe that that is the desire of countries around Ukraine. It is clear that within Ukraine there is substantial support for both the presidential candidates, and that makes dialogue between both sides of the country, if I can put it that way, very important. We hope that whoever does become president will be able to govern Ukraine as a whole nation in the coming months and years.

I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said and what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, implied. This should not be seen as a polarisation of the European Union versus Russia. We need to have dialogue; as I indicated to your Lordships, the Ukrainian High Courts are looking at this issue only this afternoon. It is wise for them to look at the various challenges that have been made to the electoral process in Ukraine. This is essentially a matter for Ukraine's courts although, as the Statement clearly indicated, neighbours have an interest, given that Ukraine has signed up to free and fair elections.

On the question of natural gas, some of our gas comes through Ukraine, although I do not know the exact percentage. Rather than make a wild guess, I have in my mind somewhere between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. However, I think it would be sensible for me to write to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and put a copy of my letter in the Library.

We are one of the largest investors into Ukraine; the United Kingdom has substantial commercial interests in that country. While we are good neighbours, we should also keep an eye on those commercial interests. That is certainly reasonable.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that we should have a common EU approach. That is why Mr Solana and the representatives from Poland and Lithuania have been in Ukraine. They are not there at the moment, although I understand that Mr Solana may return in a few days' time if he believes that that would be helpful.

It is a little difficult to answer fully some of the questions about Iran. As the Statement indicated, just before my right honourable friend went into his Chamber and I came into your Lordships' Chamber, we learned that agreement had been reached by consensus at the IAEA governing body this afternoon. So I am not in a position to give your Lordships a full breakdown of every point that was covered. However, the centrifuge sets, which were referred to in the Statement, will be a matter for inspection. I cannot tell the noble Lord whether they will be permanently sealed—I recognise that that is an important point—but they will certainly be part of the inspection process, as of yesterday afternoon, because they had been excluded by the Iranians before that point.

The noble Lord asked what guarantees the EU is able to give the Iranians. There is a timetable for the commencement of long-term discussions aimed at providing long-term objectives for Iran. Our objective is that its nuclear capability is being used for entirely peaceful purposes. Iran's objectives, however, are largely about technical and commercial co-operation and the very important point of resuming the commercial and trade discussions with the European Union which were suspended last year because of European concerns arising from the doubts over Iran's nuclear capability. Negotiations on the trade and co-operation agreement will be resumed.

Both noble Lords focused on the United States' reactions to the E3 initiative. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that it was not so much that support in the United States was low but perhaps the best word for it is "varied". The United States did support the E3 initiative, and the agreement this afternoon has been reached by consensus on the IAEA board. Consensus, to my mind, includes the United States being content with what the E3 managed to secure.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, is quite right that we do not have our boats back yet. The MoD is meeting with the Iranian authorities; it met them in September, and I understand that it is still looking at the analysis of the GPS information which has been the subject of so much interest on this issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, spoke of continuous monitoring. That is the whole crux of the agreement that we have reached through the E3 and the IAEA.

On Iraq, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked what the neighbours in the region were doing. This will be discussed in some detail in a meeting that will take place in Tehran tomorrow. The point of the meeting is to get real political support for Iraq, rather than financial support. The fact is that there is considerable financial support for Iraq—33 billion dollars was pledged at the Madrid conference. Your Lordships have commented in the past that much of that money has still not been committed or dispersed within Iraq itself. However, the political support of Iraq's neighbours for the process in Iraq is urgently needed—not only political support for the elections, but for dealing with problems with a number of the borders of countries neighbouring Iraq, which are much too porous. Too many people with questionable motives and too much equipment are being let into Iraq and we very much hope that those issues will be addressed.

Of course, we support the election date, which has been set by the interim Iraqi Government for 30 January. That process is being discussed. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised his concerns about that. I can tell him that the matter is being discussed not only in Iraq and by the multinational forces who are able to provide some of the security, but in the United Nations. I had some detailed discussions with Sir Kieran Prendergast on this matter only 10 or so days ago.

Questions were also asked about Mosul and the statement made this morning by a senior security official, who I believe is on the American side. As I understand it, he said that it would not be possible to hold elections today rather than that it would not be possible to hold elections at all. However, I recognise that that is a very real point. If your Lordships are content, I would like to take one more minute to answer some of the points on the Palestinian issue.

The elections on 9 January are presidential elections. I understand that Mr Barghouti is not standing, to answer a specific question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I will write to your Lordships with other election dates. I believe that they have been set and I am sorry not have them at the top of my mind as I speak. However, I agree with both noble Lords about the importance of dealing with the Israeli issue of settlements—which is dealt with in phase one of the road map which states that settlements should be frozen—and the important questions raised about the wall and barrier. As to whether Mr Solana met members of Hamas, Mr Solana's office said that it wanted to clarify that at no time did Dr Solana wish to imply that direct contact between himself and Hamas had taken place. Both noble Lords can have a copy of that statement if they would find it helpful.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, I echo the appreciation already expressed to the noble Baroness not only for repeating the Statement, but for the very real work in progress—as she put it—that the Statement reflects, especially as regards Iran, Iraq and Arab-Israel. I have two questions, which I shall ask in reverse order, starting with Arab-Israel.

I hope that the Minister will repeat what I think she has said before—that the aim of the road map is first and foremost the security of Israel, but secondly and most importantly the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. The Minister referred to new impetus being put into the road map and that is very welcome, although I am not sure that that is entirely consistent with statements from Washington which suggest that a four-year programme is being considered. However, is there any prospect of the United States appointing a special envoy, which many of us believe would be an important step if we are really to have new impetus put into the peace process?

Turning to Iran, the Statement referred to increased trade co-operation. Do the British Government still regard extra-territorial ILSA legislation from Congress as applying to British companies? If so, is that likely to be a constraint on increased trade co-operation and investment?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, for his remarks. However, the aim of the road map is not first the security of Israel. It is to have two states living side by side—Israel living in peace and security with its neighbours and a contiguous viable state of Palestine. It is important to keep those aims on twin tracks and not say that one is more important than the other, because quite frankly, to do so would automatically lose us the concentration.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, I thank the Minister for ticking me off in what is a rather unusual reverse order from my more normal speeches.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I would not dream of ticking off the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I cannot see myself being quite that bold. However, I wanted to get the Government's position clear.

On the question of the four-year programme, the four years was mentioned when the President of the United States said that over the next four years— which I took to mean his presidential period—he wanted to spend the political capital of the United States on establishing a state of Israel. That is not so much thinking in terms of a four-year plan as him saying that it was also one of his priorities, in the way that the Prime Minister said that it was his priority over the next period.

I understand that the United States of America is as yet undecided about a special envoy. The incoming Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, may well decide that she wants to take that role on her own shoulders rather than appointing an envoy so to do. However, I am sure that we will learn more about that.

On the question of Iran and trade co-operation, as noble Lords will know, we have always regarded extra-territorial legislation with enormous distaste in this country. Governments of both political persuasions in the recent past in the UK have done so. We are now in a position to resume negotiations on a commercial co-operation agreement with the Iranians, which I understand from my period as a trade Minister is something that UK companies and the Iranians very much want to see.

Lord Truscott

My Lords, while awaiting the judgments of the Ukrainian Supreme Court on allegations of widespread electoral abuse, will my noble friend and Her Majesty's Government back the statement of the EU Presidency calling for a fresh ballot in Ukraine? Furthermore, will the Government also call upon the Russian Federation to dissociate itself from some of those in the south and east of Ukraine who are calling for some form of unilateral declaration of independence and detachment from the rest of Ukraine?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I will be a little guarded in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Truscott. The Statement makes it very clear that we do not think that the outcome of the elections can be regarded as free or fair. It is now right and proper that we wait to see what the Ukrainian courts themselves say about this matter. My noble friend is absolutely right. Not only did our colleagues in the OSCE—including my right honourable friend Mr Bruce George, who was a part of the parliamentary committee—say that the election did not meet its standards, but also the observers from NATO, who said that there was a serious level of ballot abuse in the Ukraine. The sensible thing for us to do is to wait to see what the Supreme Courts say. However, our overall view on this point is implicit in what my right honourable friend said.

Lord Biffen

My Lords, I am sure that "wait and see" are wise words from the Minister. However, I have a question that she may feel disinclined to answer because of the sensitivity of the situation. If the Ukrainian courts' decisions result in there being a second election, does she expect that the OSCE will still be available to monitor that election? If so, what other arrangements does she think might be suitable to keep onside as far as possible with Russia?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I very much hope that, if there is to be another ballot, the OSCE would still monitor any fresh elections. But I hope, too, that we will be able to have a dialogue with our friends in Moscow about the way in which the issue is developing. It is essential that we recognise that a fragile position has emerged in Ukraine. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, many people are urging a peaceful and measured approach to the matter, and say that we should wait for what the courts decide, while acknowledging that the position is entirely unsatisfactory for the people of Ukraine. The outcome—of who becomes the next president—must reflect the will of the people of Ukraine.

Lord Garden

My Lords, with just two months to go to the elections in Iraq, did discussions take place last week or at another time about the provision of UN and other international monitors and observers for those elections, and security for those people?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, all those matters are under discussion. There have been discussions within the UN; discussions have taken place about how the elections can be observed for fairness and how security can be provided. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, when answering questions from the press this morning, made it clear that there are preferences for an increased number of Iraqis to provide their own security for the elections, which would provide a greater degree of confidence for Iraq that the elections were for Iraqis and administered by Iraqis. That is where we would like to see a great deal of emphasis placed; indeed, much of the effort of the international community has gone into training Iraqi forces for that purpose. I hope that it goes without saying—one always has to say these things but I believe that all your Lordships would agree—that a degree of international monitoring would be very much welcomed.

Lord Lea of Crondall

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many of us share the warm welcome given to the progress in Iran? It is remarkable in many respects, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, has said, that our Foreign Secretary, along with Mr de Villepin and Joschka Fischer, had a large part to play in brokering the foundations of the agreement. Although that sort of triangular relationship is not the only ball game in town, it is an important one for the future, and has also helped to underpin the credibility of the IAEA.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I agree with that. Of course, the initiative was begun under the Foreign Minister, Mr de Villepin, of France. Now, of course, Mr Barnier has taken over that role. He and my right honourable friend, together with Joschka Fischer, have done an excellent job for the international community. It has not been easy; it has been a day-by-day issue for us about trying to build confidence with a country that has had difficult international relationships, as we know.

We have maintained a good diplomatic relationship with Iran, which is, if your Lordships like, in contrast with that of United States of America, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, implied earlier. We have worked steadily at this issue, but the real test will not be in the signing of agreements or agreements made at the IAEA today. It will be in the implementation. That is what I said at the beginning of my answers to these questions; this is all very much a work in progress.