A look at the work of the Foreign Office and its embassies overseas this week.
On Monday it was announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had died. Foreign Secretary William Hague said that this could be a turning point for the country:
“We hope that their new leadership will recognise that engagement with the international community offers the best prospect of improving the lives of ordinary North Korean people.”
A year on from their first meeting, the Foreign Secretary hosted the Human Rights Advisory Group meeting. The Group discussed the countries of particular concern, business and human rights and freedom of belief.
The Foreign Secretary signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates on development co-operation when he visited the country on Tuesday.
The Iranian Authorities have blocked the British Embassy in Iran website. The Foreign Secretary described the action as “counter-productive and ill-judged”:
“It will confirm to the Iranian people that their government is determined to block their access to information, and to conceal from them the international community’s legitimate concerns about Iran’s policies and behaviour. It will also make it harder for Iranian nationals to access information about visiting the UK. And it is further proof to the rest of the world the Iranian government’s dire record on freedom of speech and human rights in general.”
He said that it will not deter Britain from continuing to engage with the Iranian people, including through the internet.
The Foreign Secretary also recorded a New Year message. He described 2011 as an extraordinary year, and looked ahead to 2012, a year he said may turn out to be just as challenging:
Also looking back at 2011 was Nick Latta, as Deputy Head of Mission in Tripoli at the start of the uprising, Nick played a crucial role in the evacuation of British nationals in Libya.
Following the decision by the Mercosur group of countries to prevent ships that fly the flag of the Falkland Islands from entering their ports, Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said that it is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands.
The Foreign Office launched 3 short films this week as we head towards 2012, the year that London will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the first, founder of Bestway Sir Anwar Perwez OBE, Britain’s second largest cash and carry firm discussed how he started his business in the UK. In the second, British Asian entrepreneur Manoj Badale gave his views on business opportunities in the UK. In the third, Tehran born singer/songwriter Sami Yusuf talked about tolerance and freedom of expression in the UK.
In travel this week we advised British nationals to ensure they are prepared for their trip as ABTA estimates 4.25 million will travel over the Christmas and New Year period. We also highlighted strikes across Europe that may affect travel plans.