Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27 March 2001.

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary 12:00, 27 March 2001

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has been listening to the exchanges that have taken place so far, and I am quite clear that he wrote that last line before he heard them. I have retailed to the House exactly the action that we took, which provides clear, sharp contrast with the inaction of the Conservative Government during the Matabeleland massacres. In the event of President Mugabe persisting in his refusal to see the delegation from the Commonwealth ministerial action group, we will consider that with our colleagues. We are committed by the statement that we adopted last week to provide advice to the Heads of Government, and plainly that will have to be reflected in any advice that we offer.

On the issue of suspension from the Commonwealth, I invite the right hon. Gentleman to reflect carefully on that before repeating it. I believe that the most practical thing that we have done in Zimbabwe in the past year is the deployment of Commonwealth observers during last year's parliamentary elections. That was warmly welcomed by the democratic opposition, who said that it had curbed the worst excesses of the Mugabe regime. If we suspended Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, the net effect would be that we could not provide Commonwealth observers when President Mugabe comes up for re-election next year. I do not see how it would help anybody in Zimbabwe for us to be unable to provide observers, which would give Mugabe an even clearer run at re-election.