Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 13th May 2014.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 12:45 pm, 13th May 2014

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Given that he asked about Nigeria, it may be in order to say one sentence about Nigeria. I issued a written statement yesterday, the matter was discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday and I briefed the Cabinet on the situation this morning. Our team was deployed to Nigeria last Friday and has had meetings over the last few days with the Nigerian security authorities, with the President and with representatives of the families of the girls who have been abducted. They are working closely with the US team and we are in close touch with the Nigerians about what more we can provide as additional assistance. That was a long sentence! I hope it briefly keeps the House up to date on how we are responding to this appalling crime.

The right hon. Gentleman expressed through his statement and questions the bipartisan approach we have to the crisis in Ukraine. He was quite right to say that President Putin and Russia should be judged on their actions, not just on words at press conferences, and that we should be prepared to increase the pressure. The decisions we took yesterday in Brussels are clear evidence of our willingness to increase the pressure. Not everybody expected us to agree further sanctions yesterday, but we felt that in the absence of concrete steps from Russia to de-escalate, it was right to add to the sanctions. To answer the right hon. Gentleman’s question about whether there could be further extensions to the list of individuals and entities subject to asset freezes and travel bans, yes, absolutely there could be. Because we have substantially widened the criteria, many more individuals and entities can now be added if the circumstances warrant it. There is a real readiness across the whole European Union to do so.

I said in my statement that the wider sanctions—wider economic, trade and financial measures—which we have not yet imposed, are at an advanced stage. I am not able to announce any details, because they would of course have to be agreed in detail at the time. The detailed work has been done by the European Commission in consultation with EU members. It would be desirable to have a further meeting of the parties that took part in the Geneva talks of 17 April. However, it is possible to make progress even without such a meeting, as the work over the last week by the chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, President Burkhalter of Switzerland, has demonstrated. We are in close touch with him, and he is working closely with the Ukrainian authorities and is, of course, in regular touch with Moscow to try to make his four-point plan work. I very much welcome his dedication to that task, and I will remain in close touch with him.

On the question of whether the further steps to destabilise the elections represent a serious escalation, yes, that is absolutely right, as was made clear at the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday and by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in their press conference on Saturday. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to refer to the concerns created, particularly in countries with Russian-speaking minorities, about how Russia has defined its interests and its right, as it sees it, to intervene in other nations in defiance of the UN charter and international law. That is why NATO has made decisions to give greater assurance to our colleagues, particularly in the Baltic states. As he knows, we have reinforced the air policing of the Baltic, including by sending Royal Air Force Typhoon jets, and we will take other steps as necessary.

One of the results of what Russia has done is that at the NATO summit, which we are proud to host in Wales in September, NATO’s responsibilities to ensure the collective and guaranteed defence of its European members, and our readiness to revitalise that and ensure that it remains there in the coming years, will be a topic of great discussion—greater than it would have been without this crisis.