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Turkey

Volume 587: debated on Tuesday 28 October 2014

Turkey is an important security partner for the UK in NATO and in actions against terrorism. She faces major challenges because of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and we value the Turkish humanitarian contribution and her support for coalition activities against ISIL.

I thank the Minister for that reply. The security situation in Turkey remains extraordinarily delicate. What support have the Government given to assist Turkey with those serious security concerns while also respecting the rights and freedoms of its citizens?

Only last week we held one of our regular discussions with the Turkish authorities about counter-terrorism co-operation. The subjects discussed included better work to detect explosive traces in material going through airports and how we can better share information about airline passengers to guard against future terrorist attack.

The Minister referred to Turkey’s role with regard to Syria. Does he agree that it is absolutely deplorable that the Turkish Government are not providing assistance to the besieged people of Kobane and the other Syrian Kurds facing an existential threat from ISIL? Turkey needs to get off the fence and to decide which side it is on. Is it with ISIL, or is it with the civilian population and the Kurds in Syria?

The Turkish Government have made it very clear that they are on the side of the coalition and against ISIL. They are now allowing Kurdish fighters to cross through Turkish territory to take part in the fighting around Kobane. It is also worth the hon. Gentleman bearing it in mind that Turkey is providing refuge to 1.5 million people who have fled the fighting in Iraq and Syria, and we ought to acknowledge that contribution too.

Turkey’s security interests with regard to Islamic State are absolutely engaged, as are those of the other two major regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran. If those three countries can be got to agree a political strategy towards Islamic State, we will begin to have a sensible military strategy to underpin it. What work is going on to get those three countries to discuss that seriously?

There was a coalition meeting of Ministers in the margins of the recent NATO ministerial meeting at which that political discussion was taken forward. Clearly, we would welcome it unreservedly if it were possible to rally all the regional powers towards a united effort to defeat ISIL and to see the Iraqi Government, the legitimate authorities, re-establish control over all their territory.

For four years, I have noticed that the Tory Con-Dem Government have very much been apologists for Turkey. The Prime Minister indicated that he wanted Turkey in the European Union. Here we are again, apologising, or at least this Front Bench is apologising, for Turkey’s failure to act in concert with the British and Americans. What is it that gets Tory Ministers so engaged in wanting to befriend Turkey and to get it into the EU?

The Government do not apologise for upholding the national interest of the United Kingdom by working closely with Turkey, which has been our NATO ally under Governments of different political colours over many decades. There are issues on which we disagree, in which case we make our views clear, but I hope that even the hon. Gentleman would welcome the work that the Turkish Government are doing to try to bring about a reconciliation with the Kurds—something we all want to see.