David Miliband

Foreign Secretary

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Monday 01 September, 2008

Thankfully...August is over


It must be a western conceit to think that just because we are on holiday in August there should be fewer crises in foreign policy.  Sure enough, August is usually full of crises: coups, scares etc.  We go on holiday; we jet back from holiday.  Why do we even think that two weeks could go by without a problem
This year has proved no different.  And the Georgia crisis is a real crisis.  The European Council meets today in emergency session for the first time since September 11 2001. Over 100,000 G
eorgian refugees have joined the 200,000-pluleft over from the civil wars of the early 1990s.  That is reason enough to say there is a crisis.
But the rupture in international norms is more significant.  
As recently as AprilRussia supported a UN Resolution affirming the territorial integrity of Georgia. Today it is occupying and recognising two breakaway states.  Talk about unilateral use of force without UN cover ...
Many people have made the point that "we" need Russia - if not for gas then over Iran or Afghanistan.  This is true.  But Russia needs "us"
 too.  As Fareed Zakaria cleverly points out in Newsweek, Russia's actions in Georgia are a potentially serious strategic blunder: Europe has been united by Russian action; trans-Atlanticism revived; and China alienated.  Not a clever day's work. 
I do not celebrate this breach.  Russia's integration into global economics and politics is actually the best hope for a country losi
ng population at Russia's rate. 
Europe and America have not rushed thoughtlessly into action.  We will be deliberate and effective in choos
ing the right ways to react to Russia's actions.  In the short term we support democratic and sovereign countries, starting with Georgia, which need economic and political help.  In due course we will raise the costs to Russia of such behaviour.  
This isn't about winning or losing
as the Russian Foreign Minister pointed out in the FT two weeks ago.  What we want to see is Russia on a different course, not Russia ground down.  A weak Russia is as little in our interests as an aggressive one. 

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Saturday 02 August, 2008

The road to Gatwick

We are on the way to Gatwick - shutting down for the holidays (traffic jams and take off times permitting).

The decision of the Turkish constitutional court this week not to suspend the Turkish governing party, and its leading figures, is a big cause for relief.  The banning  of the AKP would have been completely contrary to the European ideals that the Turkish government want to embrace, and it would have been a huge distraction.  Now there is a massive opportunity for Turkey and for Europe.  Turkey needs to take forward its own reform programme internally and make progress externally - on relations with the Kurds in northern Iraq and in supporting a bi-zonal, bi-communal settlement of the Cyprus dispute.  Europe needs to embrace the opportunity to work through the accession issues for European membership.  At least this is not now going to get me back from holiday.

Blog resumes in three weeks or so.  Hopefully browner and fresher.

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Tuesday 29 July, 2008

Pakistan Comes To Britain

I took the Pakistani foreign minister to Birmingham on Friday to meet community leaders and young members of the Pakistani heritage diaspora.  The pride about both countries was really striking - pride because the people we met were proud of their achievements in Britain and of their Pakistani heritage.  But there was also concern over the need to find new ways to support Pakistan as it goes through difficult weeks and months.

The expectations are big, the needs very large, and the forces undermining national consensus strong. Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, my opposite number, has a grandfather who was governor (I think) of the Punjab under the Raj, and is himself a former mayor of Multan and Finance Minister of Punjab.He wowed the elders and listened intently to the young people.His government need time, yet the threats of terrorism and economic challenge conspire to deny it.

Britain is helping with aid and trade but we left Birmingham resolved to try and do better on business and education contacts.

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Thursday 24 July, 2008

Karadzic: joy or relief?

I  have been reading  some of the testimonials from the relatives of victims of genocide in Bosnia.  There have been some expressions of joy but the pain has been stronger.  Genocide is rightly not a term used lightly - nor is Richard Holbrooke's phrase about Karadzic "the Osama  Bin Laden of the western Balkans", which has not provoked adverse comment - but when perhaps  200 000 are murdered and 2 million displaced in a small country it is right.  The reports have reminded people that Karadzic was a poet - and psychologist to the Red Star Belgrade football team.   His arrest sends an important signal at an important time.

115 people have been tried in the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, with 56 convictions.  A small number are still on the run, including Ratko Mladic.  But the Serbian government have followed through on their election promise and deserve congratulation.  Serbs have voted twice in Presidential and parliamentary elections for European/western oriented governments.  They deserve congratulation too for resisting the blandishments of backward looking Serb nationalism.

And the Court has shown it does not go away.  This is important more generally.  It applies to the ICC - International Criminal Court - which has been pursuing those alleged to have been guilty of war crimes in Darfur.  The Sudanese government has so far refused to engage with the court, but I tried to make clear in my visit to Khartoum that the  Court would not go away if the government refused to engage.  The ruling National Congress Party in Sudan still has to decide what to do; I hope they get the message from  The Hague.

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The Doha Round is About More than Trade

Once again the world's trade negotiators are trying for a decisive breakthrough.  "Last chance" meetings have come and gone. It is not easy to be optimistic after seven years of negotiation. No multilateral trade negotiation has ever failed.  Many commentators now suggest that Doha will be the first.
The cost of failure would be huge.  New trade from the deal would be worth tens - even hundreds - of billions of Euros annually. A shot in the arm the global economy desperately needs.  At a time of global economic uncertainty Doha would lock in new economic opportunities around the world, for developed and developing countries alike.

If Doha fails these benefits will be lost.  But the effects will go wider. 

Doha is the first world-wide negotiation to reflect the new global economic order.  Brazil, India, China and other emerging economies are equal players in the WTO, as central to its success as the EU, US and Japan.    It is right, therefore, as Peter Mandelson has done, to demand that they make a fair, proportionate contribution to a world system from which they greatly benefit.

If Doha slips away,  a unique opportunity to strengthen the multilateral, rules-based system will be lost - that  would be a big knock to international confidence.  If we cannot reach a trade agreement after seven years, can we really expect to succeed next year on a truly global successor to Kyoto?  How will we generate a global commitment needed to shift to low carbon growth? 

We need international institutions that accommodate the shifts of power and influence in the world and can deal more effectively with both familiar and new challenges.  We still need to manage international disputes and resolve conflicts.  But we also need collectively to address climate change, global economic shocks, food and energy insecurity and terrorism. The old institutions, created in the aftermath of the second world war,  are insufficiently geared to   meet these challenges.  India, China, Brazil and others must take a proportionate but bigger share of responsibility for world problems in return for a bigger say in world institutions. In the WTO they already have that bigger say. So Doha is, therefore, a test case.   It if fails, sceptics will see little chance of improving the UN's ability to respond to post conflict situations. Or reforming the IMF to give better early warning of global economic shocks. Or turning the World Bank into a bank for the environment as well as development. 

The EU should lead by example.  We should negotiate hard for our interests, but with an eye on the bigger picture. Our grand-children will not blame us for making the small concessions needed to achieve a trade deal.  They will blame us, and rightly, if we miss the opportunity in the Doha Round to build a platform for managing the complicated and uncertain world they will inherit.

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Wednesday 23 July, 2008

European Action 2: Iran

Ministers in Brussels also agreed to follow up Saturday’s inconclusive meeting with the Iranian nuclear representative with further sanctions on the Iranian regime to implement the articles of UN Resolution 1803, for example putting extra sanctions on the sale of dual use goods to Iran.  The position was simple: we have an obligation to weigh in to make clear to Iran the choice it faces, between engagement in a freeze and then suspension of its nuclear programme with the benefits it brings (including civilian nuclear power), and defiance and go-it-alone which means more sanctions.   Saturday’s meeting gave a two week deadline to the Iranian government to answer the package put to them for engagement and cooperation.  It cannot come soon enough.

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UK-Caribbean Forum

60 years after the arrival in the UK of the ship Windrush at Tilbury Docks, 800,000 Brits trace their heritage back to the Caribbean, and the ties of culture, business, tourism and sport (as well as the shared dangers of drugs and security) mean that we have a lot to work on with Caribbean governments. That is the purpose of the UK-Caribbean forum that has recently met in London, with reps of 10 Caribbean governments and ministers from across UK government.

 The truth is that the UK-Caribbean relationship is in transition.  All the participant countries in the Forum are now independent, and the British link needs to be remade – not on the basis of history or the number of diplomats we have attached but on the basis of a shared agenda for the future.  I think this falls into a number of categories: educational (we agreed to increase and guarantee the number of scholarships), multilateral (for example work in the EU on trade), and global,  for example on climate change.  It needs civil society and business as well as government to work together.  It’s a tough sell.  The Caribbean countries want to know that we recognise the special nature of our relationship with them.  We do.  But we need to bring it alive for modern times.

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Burma – still not forgotten

Congratulations to ASEAN for their strong statement on Burma including highlighting the position of the political opposition .

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European Action1: Zimbabwe

European Foreign Ministers agreed sanctions on travel and finance relating to key members of the Mugabe regime in Brussels this week.  This is intended to make clear continued international determination to balance up the competing forces in Zimbabwe – an opposition which won the parliamentary and presidential elections and a government that has turned on its own people.  In the light of the welcome news of a negotiating process being established in Harare, the need for clear pressure on the regime is increased.  We all want the negotiations to succeed, but no one believes they will unless there is real pressure on the government to recognise the will of the people.

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Kenya: From crisis to leadership

The following report shows how the new Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga has established himself as a distinctive voice in African politics - straight talking and clear. I am meeting him to survey changes in his own country since the crisis of six months ago that saw him broker a govt of national unity with President Kibaki (he's in London for talks with the PM). Kenya is not the political model for Zimbabwe's future, but it does show that new leadership can emerge to play a responsible role at home and abroad.[Read More]

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Saturday 19 July, 2008

Kosovo: No News is Good News (kind of....)

Six months ago the threat of instability in the Western Balkans was near the top of the FCO list of political risks. The news of the last six months has been how little news there has been; and in this case no news is good news. And while there is no news, there is real work going on. For example last week there was the first successful Donor Conference for an independent Kosovo, where the government of Kosovo presented its Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and international pledges of 1.2 billion Euros were made to support the programme. The vast majority of donors are EU Member States but Israel, Turkey, Japan and Saudi Arabia also pledged. It is good stuff.

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Friday 18 July, 2008

Iran's Next Move

I strongly welcome the decision by the US Administration to send their senior diplomat, Bill Burns, to tomorrow's meeting of the E3+3 (UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and US), led by EU High Representative Javier Solana, with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who is due to respond to the package of economic, scientific and political cooperation offered to Iran for suspending their nuclear enrichment programme. The message to Iran is simple: get serious about the real needs of your people, which are for a serious response to year on year diminution in their standard of living, and abandon the fiction that the world is pursuing a vendetta against you. America's move demonstrates the determination of the E3+3 to avoid room for any excuses. It is now Iran's next move. There is a clear basis for negotiation. It needs to be taken up.

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ICC - 10 Years on

I have issued the attached comment on the 10th birthday of the ICC .  It is in the news for the right reasons - the pursuit of justice.  I hope all countries of the world will sign up.

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Monday 14 July, 2008

24 Hours in Khartoum

Written on Sunday 13 July

Massive heat at 1.30am (35°C) is the first welcome from Sudan. Britain's history in Sudan is better regarded in the country than outside - at least that is one conclusion from 24 hours in Khartoum. Sudan is pivotal to a key part of Africa. Put another way, instability in Sudan has regional consequences. The three conflicts in Sudan - North/South, Sudan - Chad (West - East), and Darfur are linked and destructive. They were the focus throughout my day of meetings from the President down.

Sudan last had elections in the 1980's; the largest party are not represented in the government, and while the civil war was ended by the groundbreaking Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the agreement was not comprehensive enough to cover the entire country. Since then Darfur has also been the scene of death and destruction that has rightly claimed the attention of the world. 

 Resolution in Darfur depends on political negotiation between the government and rebel groups. Britain is ready to support that. But we also know that the proliferation of rebel groups (to about 20 now) does not mean that there is growing representation of popular Darfuri opinion; that depends on the real engagement of Darfur Civil Society. My meeting with NGOs showed the pressing humanitarian need - to better access to food and medicine for people in need. That requires  both government and rebel groups to show responsibility. It also requires strengthening of the UN/AU force - 10,000 strong, but short of the 26,000 promised and subject to a vicious and deadly attack the day before I arrived. 

The challenges of Sudan come together at next year's elections, and the possible secession of the South means danger for all concerned. I came away from Khartoum very concerned about the imminent risk of even higher levels of instability. The problems are profound and challenging even in a peaceful situation - think of water resources along the Nile. But the solution has to be more than just political, and must include economics; the oil boom is a boom but its effects are limited mainly to the Capital.  And the ability of politicians to reach compromises is weak despite the efforts of some parts of Civil Society.

The newspapers outside Sudan are full of stories about the International Criminal Court and war crimes in Darfur. The UK is a strong supporter of the International Court and encourages all to engage with it. I will have more to say if there are developments in the week. 

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Saturday 12 July, 2008

Mediation or pressure?

The vote at the UN yesterday on Zimbabwe was not a North/South split - after all Burkino Faso voted for the resolution. But it did reveal, in the use of the veto by Russia and China, two different ways of thinking about the exercise of responsibility in the modern world.

The argument at one level was about whether to give mediation "longer". But how much longer? And how much more suffering in the interim?

But there is a more fundamental point - or two actually. First, since when does pressure on a regime that has been flagrant in its abuse of human rights and democratic standards undermine mediation? Surely it brings home much more clearly that the world is determined to tilt the balance away from a government that has forfeited international respect? But second, the argument of China and Russia was that the Security Council had no business "interfering" in a national issue. But the crisis in Zimbabwe has gone way beyond that - not least through three million plus refugees caught up in the violence fleeing to South Africa (see above "If your neighbour's house is on fire" of 8 July).

The Russian and Chinese vetoes have shielded Robert Mugabe and 13 of his top supporters from international pressure. Their preferred route of mediation will have the chance to prove itself - too late for too many but no one will be happier than I if I wake up one day soon and find that this route has delivered a government that respects the March 29 election result.

Meanwhile the governments of western and other democracies should have no regrets about bringing into the open a vital debate. The alternative is for the threat of veto to mean we all clam up and pretend that there is no disagreement. That is not real diplomacy.


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