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Middle East

Volume 584: debated on Monday 14 July 2014

I have regular discussions with the principal NATO Defence Ministers on issues of current concern, including the middle east. I attended the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels on 3 and 4 June, I met the US Deputy Secretary of Defence on 3 July in the margins of the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth, and I will meet my French counterpart for talks at Farnborough tomorrow.

Given the increasing insecurity in the middle east and the crucial role NATO will be playing, what commitment has my right hon. Friend received from our European partners that they will also step up to the plate and commit to spending up to 2% of their GDP on defence?

There is an ongoing discussion among the European NATO partner nations about how to respond to the perfectly fair challenge the United States has set us, by asking the question: why should US taxpayers be prepared to pay for a defence of Europe that European taxpayers appear to be rather reluctant to pay for? I have to say to my hon. Friend that this discussion has been rather more fruitful and productive than I was initially expecting, and I am optimistic that we may reach agreement on a declaration at the NATO summit in Wales this autumn that will set a baseline for moving European NATO spending forward as the European economies recover.

Turkey is a critical ally within NATO. It is also struggling to manage the large numbers of refugees who have come over its borders both from Syria and Iraq. Can we be very clear in sending out a message to other nations also at the Newport summit that we will not stand by and see Turkey attacked before coming to its support?

Turkey is a full member of the NATO alliance and benefits from the article 5 guarantee that the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), referred to a few moments ago, so Turkey can be assured that the alliance will stand behind it both militarily and, perhaps of more immediate importance, in providing assistance to it with the huge humanitarian challenge it is facing from this influx of refugees.

Given the insecurity in Ukraine and the middle east, is the MOD giving any thought to reconstituting the Allied Command Europe rapid reaction force?

Such a move would be a matter for SACEUR—Supreme Allied Commander Europe. I have not heard of any such ongoing consideration at the moment, but I am happy to check my facts and get back to my hon. Friend if I am wrong.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the widespread public concern about the current conflagration in Gaza, and the women and children either dying or threatened with death. I am aware that there is a statement this afternoon, but none the less my constituents will expect me to be telling the Secretary of State that they hope that every arm of Government will be bending every sinew to work towards a ceasefire.

Of course, the Government’s position is that there must be an urgent ceasefire and, although we have been saying this for a very long time, there must be progress towards a two-state solution, however challenging achieving that sometimes appears. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make a statement shortly. The role of the MOD in this matter is not central and I hope it remains not central; it is a Foreign Office lead and I am sure my right hon. Friend will be happy to answer the hon. Lady’s question more fully.