Friday, October 01, 2010

Wanted for genocide... and as a trading partner.

I well remember the contempt in which the Tories held Robin Cook when he had the nerve to suggest that Britain's foreign policy should be ethical. He was widely ridiculed.

But, contrast that with the foreign policy example being set by William Hague.

The Government is courting the regime of the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir by declaring that relations with Sudan have entered a "new epoch". The announcement came as Britain welcomed a trade delegation from the country which has near pariah status, for the first time since warrants for President Bashir's arrest were issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, over atrocities in Darfur.

Khartoum's high-level delegation met British government officials and business leaders on Wednesday to encourage investment in a country still targeted by US sanctions. It was the clearest example yet of how problematic William Hague's new foreign policy, in which commercial interests are to trump ethical concerns, will be for the Coalition to implement.

Business people attending have been told that Sudan is full of "untapped natural resources" and that there was "a lot of money to be made" there.

The pursuit of such friendly ties leaves the Coalition partners open to accusations of hypocrisy. While in opposition the Tory party called Darfur the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" and senior officials including Mr Hague, the current Foreign Secretary, and Andrew Mitchell, now the International Development Secretary, backed the campaign to get UK companies to disinvest from Sudan.

In a foreign policy advisory in 2007 Mr Mitchell wrote of the need to "change national and international business behaviour in the face of manifest gross violations of human rights".

But last night a Foreign Office spokesman insisted that British companies were "free to pursue legitimate commercial opportunities in Sudan", adding that "increased trade would benefit" the country's people. He said that there was "no question of prioritising commercial links over the very real and pressing human rights concerns".

I preferred the foreign policy intentions of Robin Cook. When we find ourselves dealing with suspected war criminals, I think we are guilty of putting money before principle.

Click here for full article.

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