My colleague the Minister for Africa is not with us today, as she is meeting partners from the African Union. At that meeting, she will be underlining our concern about the issues in Zimbabwe, where we have seen widespread unrest and a heavy security force response over the last week. Yesterday, I called on President Mnangagwa not to turn back the clock. People must have the right to peaceful protest without fear of violence.
Gaza has been described as the biggest open-air prison in the world. Israel continues to plan settlement expansion and demolitions with impunity, and clearly US foreign policy is making things worse. When will the UK set a realistic timeframe to step up and recognise the state of Palestine?
We also have strong relations with the Malaysian Government, and I am very disappointed that they have made what I feel is a fundamentally wrong decision. As my hon. Friend has rightly pointed out, those Israeli Paralympic athletes should not be banned from competing. I shall be seeing the Malaysian Education Minister this afternoon—with, I think, a senior representative of the high commission—and I promise to ask for an assurance that this will be dealt with properly, as a matter of urgency.
Absolutely. In fact, I had an exchange with Martin Griffiths, the Yemen special envoy, yesterday. De-mining the road between the port of Hodeidah and Sana’a so that food supplies can come from the port into the rest of the country is essential, and I think that the whole House will wish to express our admiration for the bravery of the aid workers who are in Yemen right now.
My hon. Friend is right. The discovery of those tunnels has highlighted concerns about a re-armed Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is essential for them to be dealt with by both UNIFIL and the Lebanese armed forces. They constitute a clear breach of UN Security Council regulation 1701.
I had a very good trip in the new year. We have excellent relations with both countries. What I find impressive is the fact that their prosperity has come about through openness to trade. In that regard, our post-Brexit foreign policy, embracing free trade, will be central.
That is another good question. When I was last in Iraq I met agencies involved with Yazidi women, and I hope to go there again in the not too distant future to make the same representations. The difficulty of going back to such areas is related to the overall security situation in Iraq. It is essential for the Iraqi authorities to be able to protect everyone, and that work is ongoing in very difficult circumstances.
The City of London’s connections with China form an essential part of our overall bilateral relationship, and we look forward to proceeding with an ambitious commercial agenda during 2019. As my hon. Friend will know, the City is already the world’s leading offshore trading centre for the renminbi. It engages in more than 40% of global trading, even more than Hong Kong.
Yanto Awerkion, Sem Asso and Edo Dogopia were among six members of the West Papua National Committee who were arrested in December, when the police and the military took over the group’s secretariat in Timika. The three men were detained on 5 January and later charged with treason, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in Indonesia. Amnesty International has called for the unconditional release of the activists, because they have only expressed their political views. Will the Minister press his counterpart in Indonesia to release them?
Sadly, Mr Speaker, the hon. Gentleman has asked a rather different question, so I cannot just refer to the briefing I have here. May I, however, reassure the hon. Gentleman that the officials at our embassy in Jakarta, including the ambassador, visit Papua and West Papua regularly? We will do our very best in future visits to bring up the specific cases to which the hon. Gentleman refers.
With India entering the Open Doors world watch list top 10 and now designated as a country where Christians experience extreme prosecution, what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to promote the importance of religious freedom in India?
As my hon. Friend knows, I have just asked Bishop Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, to do an independent report on what more we can do to support the quarter of a billion Christians across the world facing persecution, but in India the British high commission regularly meets minority communities, including Christian groups, and we have recently enabled training for 900 minority students on faith issues in six universities.
May I ask about human rights defenders in Bahrain, as we have close links with Bahrain? There is not time to name them now, but they are prominent people and I would like to give their names to the Minister afterwards, and they include Nabeel Rajab and political opposition leaders such as Sheikh Ali Salman, imprisoned for exercising their fundamental rights. What are we doing to get them out of jail?
As the right hon. Lady knows, all the prominent cases of human rights activists are carefully monitored by the UK representatives in Bahrain. There are independent processes in order to oversee the activities of the courts in Manama, and we urge that there is a consultation and dealings with them. We keep a constant eye on this; it is a matter for progress in Bahrain, and the United Kingdom is very involved in seeing greater progress there.
Will Ministers use the United Nations as a forum where the United States can expose the Russian violation of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty so that if America does withdraw, responsibility will lie where it should?
What representations are the Government making to the Government of Nepal in relation to the recent case of the death of a woman and her two children who were suffocated while being confined in a poorly ventilated so-called period hut?
Subject to other parliamentary business I will welcome the opportunity to do that, because it is a very important issue. The timetable we are provisionally working to is that the interim report will be published before Easter, which will outline the issues faced by Christians all over the world, with the final report later in the year.
It is fair to say that the responses we got in no way assuaged our concerns about what is happening. We do raise these issues: we raise them in private but we raise them persistently, and it is very important for the Chinese to know about the concern in this House and indeed across the country.
We are working very closely with the Lima group. I made a very firm statement in the last few days and indeed only yesterday 25 members of the National Guard revolted against President Maduro’s leadership. We are taking a very robust stand on this and we recognise the legitimacy of the constituent Assembly, as indeed should all countries.
We do agree; there is no normalisation of the relationship with Syria. The point I was seeking to make was that before there can be any recognition of Syria, there has to be an understanding of what has happened there. We are looking for the regime, in its political settlement, to understand that it cannot continue to rule as it did in the past. There are no plans whatsoever for the United Kingdom to normalise any relationship with Syria. Looking at the numbers of deaths, of people killed and of murders committed by the regime, it is very difficult to see what arm of justice could possibly result in normalisation.
On the Bishop of Truro’s review of the Foreign Secretary’s review of persecution of the Christian Church, will the Foreign Secretary tell me what human and financial resources the bishop and his team will get to ensure that the report is done thoroughly?
Before I address that question, I need to correct the record. When the Minister for Europe and the Americas, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), talked about the constitutional assembly, he actually meant the National Assembly in Venezuela. We will extend all the necessary resources to the Bishop of Truro and his team. We have had good discussions about the resources that they need. This is an important review, and we want to ensure that it is done properly.
There is widespread concern among the Muslim, Hindu, Tamil and Christian communities in Sri Lanka about the appointment of alleged war criminals to very senior positions. What representations has my right hon. Friend made to the Sri Lankan Government to prevent this from happening?
We welcome the progress that has been made towards a peaceful resolution of the destabilising situation in Sri Lanka that took place from late October onwards. Just last week, I welcomed the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and commended him for his central role in bringing that about. Clearly the situation in Sri Lanka is very fluid, and I would be happy to take specific representations from my hon. Friend about the particular concern that he has just raised.
On Friday, the skirl of the bagpipes will be heard and haggis, neeps and tatties will be consumed in large quantities all over the world. Have the Government instructed their network of high commissions, embassies and consulates to facilitate the celebration of our Scottish national bard’s work and life all over the world?
I am pleased that the United Kingdom has regained its No. 1 spot in the Portland soft power top 30, particularly because we overtook France in order to do so. Although not every element of our soft power is under my right hon. Friend’s Department’s control, will he ensure that organisations such as the British Council and the BBC World Service are well funded and able to project our soft power globally as we leave the European Union?
Will Ministers tell us what representations they are making to the Turkish authorities in relation to hunger strikes by Kurdish politicians and activists, and what representations have been made to end the persecution of Kurdish people?
Are Ministers aware of reports this week from China Aid that Christian persecution is escalating in China, and that it is now at its worst for 40 years? Thousands of churches have been desecrated and destroyed, and pastors have been imprisoned and are facing trial. Whole sections of society, including children under 18 and students, have been banned from going to church, and those who do attend church are now being filmed and fingerprinted. What can be done to raise this issue internationally?
I share my hon. Friend’s concern. I read a moving report about a pastor in Chengdu who has suffered greatly. We raised these concerns during the universal periodic review that we did with China in November 2018, and I regularly raise concerns about human rights issues with my Chinese counterpart. One of the reasons for doing the review is to ensure that I am properly informed on matters of religious freedom.
Given the Minister for the Middle East’s earlier expression of support for UNRWA and the concern about the alternative education that Palestinian children might receive if UNRWA pulls out, will the UK Government consider filling the vacuum resulting from the withdrawal of US leadership in this important service?
In reference to the question from the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), I am appropriately wearing my tartan tie to celebrate this week.
As I indicated earlier, we support UNRWA’s work and work hard with the organisation in case reform is needed. In the long term, UNRWA’s future will be about the future of refugees and their final settlement status. In the meantime, we cannot completely plug the financial gap left by the United States, which is why we are working with others, but leadership is vital, as is trying to get it across to the world that UNRWA is doing important work, and the UK will remain a champion.