To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent developments in Turkey.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for applying for the urgent question.
As Members on both sides of the House will have seen from events unfolding on their television screens, it became clear on Friday evening that a military uprising was under way in Turkey. In plain terms, it was an attempted coup, which we condemn unreservedly. It was ultimately unsuccessful, and constitutional order has been restored, but 210 people have reportedly been killed, and some 1,400 injured. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing our sympathies and condolences to the people of Turkey on the tragic loss of life.
Her Majesty’s Government have, of course, been closely engaged throughout the weekend. Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular staff worked tirelessly throughout Saturday and Sunday to support British nationals who have been affected, and they continue to do so. We have thankfully received no reports of British casualties. Our advice to British nationals remains to monitor local media reports and to follow FCO travel advice, including the advice provided by our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Erdogan last night. She expressed her condolences for the loss of life, and commended the bravery of the Turkish people. She underlined our support for Turkey’s Government and democratic institutions, stressing that there was no place for the military in politics, and also underlined the importance of our co-operation on counter-terrorism, migration, regional security and defence.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was regularly updated by officials as events unfolded. He visited the teams in the FCO’s crisis centre who responded to Nice on Friday morning, and visited those responding to Turkey on Saturday morning. He spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, on Saturday to express our concern and our support for Turkey’s democratic Government and its democratic institutions, to urge calm, and to encourage all parties to work to restore democratic and constitutional order quickly and in an inclusive way. Her Majesty’s ambassador in Turkey has been in constant touch with his Turkish counterparts. I spoke to him myself yesterday, particularly in order to express our concern for the welfare of embassy staff, and I plan to visit Ankara tomorrow.
The Foreign Secretary attended the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday, and participated in a discussion about Turkey. There is a strong sense of common purpose between us and our European partners. The Foreign Affairs Council has issued conclusions strongly condemning the coup attempt, welcoming the common position of the political parties in support of Turkey’s democracy, and stressing the importance of the prevailing of the rule of law and its rejection of the death penalty.
The Turkish Government now have an opportunity to build on the strong domestic support that they gathered in response to the coup attempt. A measured and careful response will sustain the unity of purpose which we have seen so far, and which was so evident on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara. The United Kingdom stands ready to help Turkey to implement the reforms to which it has committed itself, and to help the democratically elected Government to restore order in a way that reflects and supports the rule of law.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, and may I take this opportunity to welcome him to his new position? It is unfortunate that he and his team have had to be brought to the House and did not think it right to make a statement themselves. I hope that the emergency landing at Luton of the right hon. Gentleman’s boss is not a bad omen, but we do wish the all-male ministerial team well at this crucial time.
Turkey is of pivotal cultural, political and strategic importance to the world, straddling as it does the east-west divide with borders to eight countries. It is a vital NATO ally and has important minorities, particularly Kurds and Armenians, as its citizens. Half a million people of Turkish or Kurdish descent live in the UK and they are desperately worried about their families. With 2 million British visitors a year, Turkey is greatly loved in this country, and the interests of our two countries cannot be separated.
How many British citizens have been arrested, if any, and what support is being provided to them? What is the current advice to British nationals within Turkey and to those who may be booked to travel over the next few days and weeks?
On Friday we saw the Turkish people, whether they supported the current Government or not, coming out to support democracy and making a clear statement that military coups have no place in modern Turkey. The question is whether President Erdogan will use this as an opportunity to deepen and strengthen democracy or to undermine it. The signs so far are deeply worrying, with 9,000 police officers and a third of the generals dismissed, 7,500 people arrested, including the most senior judges in the country, and the death penalty being introduced.
What reassurances has the right hon. Gentleman had that there will be fair trials for those accused of complicity in the attempted coup? Was the Foreign Office taken by surprise by this attempted coup? How big is the Turkish team in the Foreign Office? Does he have plans to expand it? What will happen to this vital ally—what will happen next to this partner, this friend? It is vital that we work together to ensure that Turkey has a secure foundation of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights into the future.
I thank the hon. Lady for her warm welcome—to me at least—but I respectfully point out to her that the noble Baroness Anelay, who is also a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, was, when I last spoke to her, a woman. From a personal point of view, may I point out that I am also able to add to the spectrum of choice the hon. Lady would like to see in our ministerial team? [Interruption.] I might say to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) that he, of all people, should be aware of how exactly I add to that spectrum.
I am not aware of any UK citizens having been arrested, but obviously that is a very serious consular objective for us to pursue, find out and make sure that it remains the case. I think the whole House will agree with the hon. Lady’s point about the importance of wanting the due process of law to be upheld, and for any trials, should they happen, to be fair, and to make sure that the highest principles of democratic standards are upheld, for which of course one needs a functioning and independent judiciary.
I will be discussing all these matters when I go to Ankara tomorrow, and I very much hope that in the reaction Turkey displays to this coup attempt it will be able to remain a very important member of NATO and a partner to other countries in Europe. The answer to the hon. Lady’s straightforward question about whether we were taken by surprise is, yes; I am not sure there is anybody who was not.
The Prime Minister appears not to have mentioned the arrest of nearly 3,000 members of the judiciary in her conversation with the Turkish President. It seems a rather strange way to uphold the rule of law, and The Independent is reporting today that NATO’s leadership has made it clear that a commitment to uphold democracy, including tolerating diversity, is one of the four core requirements for members of the alliance. Is that the position of Her Majesty’s Government?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and indeed Secretary Kerry made similar such comments yesterday. As I have just said, retaining an independent judiciary, which will of course require judges working to apply the due process of law, is absolutely essential if we are to see the standards we wish to see upheld in Turkey. I note what my hon. Friend says about NATO. Turkey remains an important ally within NATO and a very valued UK partner, so we encourage Turkey to maintain its democratic institutions and the rule of law as a fundamental part of NATO’s value agenda.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his place, and the spectacular late flowering of his ministerial career. We suspect that he may well be at the Dispatch Box on many occasions, substituting for the absent Foreign Secretary. We also remember the Foreign Secretary’s film, “The Dream of Rome”, in which he advocated Turkey’s immediate succession to the European Union—an argument he later used to justify Brexit and the UK’s removal from the European Union. Can we be assured that there will be no such ambiguity in the messages that now go to Turkey, and that while no responsible Government can support a military coup against a democratic Government, no responsible democratic Government engages in the suppression of civil liberties, the persecution of minority communities such as the Kurds, the imprisonment of thousands of people, the suspension of parliamentary rights, and the reintroduction of the death penalty? Will the Minister make it clear unambiguously to President Erdogan that it is not only membership of the European Union that is at risk from such actions, but also NATO membership?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his description of me—I had never quite seen myself as a hardy perennial in quite the same way. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who has been described as absent, is working furiously. Having been to Brussels already he is due to go to Washington, and he is meeting many European Foreign Ministers today in advance of meetings on Syria and Yemen. It is ill-judged of the right hon. Gentleman to criticise him for deputing me to answer this urgent question.
Well I have a job too, which I hope I am doing to the satisfaction of the House as the Foreign Secretary’s deputy. Turkey’s accession to the EU is clearly a long way off, and it is far too soon after events to start making long-term judgments about it. Some might think that it is less of a matter for the UK than it was before 23 June.
My right hon. Friend may know that 41 students from the Arthur Terry school in my constituency were caught up in the airport, together with seven members of staff. Thanks to the outstanding leadership of the headteacher, Neil Warner, and the senior member of staff on the team, Sue Bailey, who showed excellent and responsible leadership in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, all 48 were able to leave at 1 o’clock the following morning, and head to South Africa where their school is twinned with the Rondevlei school. Through my right hon. Friend, may I pay tribute to the outstanding service that the Foreign Office provided to my 48 constituents, and in particular to Matt Jordan, a Foreign Office official who was in the airport at the time and who rendered full Foreign Office and consular services to all my constituents in an outstanding way?
I beg your pardon. Yes—it is important that I get my geography right, and not just in the United Kingdom. What those teachers did was absolutely commendable, and the natural thing is for the Foreign Office to send people to an airport, which is a natural hub, in response to a sudden outbreak of concern. I am full of praise for the manner in which staff in our embassy reacted so promptly and with such initiative to the sudden and unexpected military uprising.
Yesterday, I and my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) met the chairman of the British Alevi Federation. It raised deep concerns with us about the tension that has been rising in the largely Alevi and Kurdish populated neighbourhoods, due to attacks and demonstrations by apparently pro-Erdogan supporters. Many of my constituents have heard frightening reports from friends and family in Turkey who fear that they are being targeted. Will the Minister impress on President Erdogan, and on whoever he meets tomorrow when he goes to Turkey, the need to ensure as far as possible the safety and protection of all citizens, especially ethnic and religious minority communities who feel vulnerable at the moment?
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. He has formidable diplomatic and business experience, and he will add strength to a formidable Foreign Office team. President Erdogan used social media in the difficult hours immediately after the coup attempt was launched to rally the support of the Turkish people against the illegal attempt to seize power. In the past, however, the Erdogan Government have been restrictive in their approach to the use of social media by their people and critical of press freedom. Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to ensure that President Erdogan and his allies appreciate that press freedom and freedom of speech are among the values that those behind the coup wished to crush and that he should seek to uphold?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about my appointment. He is absolutely right to say that freedom of speech and freedom of the media are essential to the proper working of any democracy and indeed of any country. He is also right to say that the use of social media on this occasion proved very useful for quelling the uprising. I am sure that the irony of what he has said will not be lost on many people.
Some of us have always been sceptical about the suitability of Turkey as a safe country to which refugees could be returned under the EU deal. Can the Minister confirm that that EU deal is kept under review? Will he also impress upon the Turkish Government that the continuation of the deal, and the many advantages that stand to go to Turkish citizens under it, will be judged according to their response to human rights in particular?
The UK is committed to the successful implementation of the EU-Turkey migration deal, which I think is what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to. We have seen no indication that the treatment of refugees in Turkey has been affected by the recent events. We will of course continue to monitor developments closely, but we want to see the deal continuing to work properly.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his return to the Front Bench in a role to which he brings considerable expertise and experience. Hon. and right hon. Members have rightly focused on the geopolitical and political implications, and the implications for UK nationals, of events in Turkey, but will he acknowledge that UK embassy staff in Ankara and the consular staff in Istanbul have played and continue to play a huge role in managing the implications of those events? Can he update the House on the situation and safety of our diplomatic and consular staff in Turkey?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. All our staff in Ankara and Istanbul will be grateful to him for raising this topic. One of the main reasons that I wish to visit Ankara tomorrow is to reassure the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They had a shocking and unpleasant experience when suddenly, out of the calm, jets were overhead, shooting, and they heard the sound of explosions very near to the embassy. Some of our staff were separated from their children. For this to happen so suddenly and in such circumstances is a traumatic experience, and I consider it important as a Minister to exercise a proper duty of care. It is therefore perhaps my top priority to do that when I go to Ankara tomorrow.
There are still some questions about the origins of the attempted coup that took place last Friday evening. It is encouraging, however, that all the opposition parties in Turkey, however critical they might be of the Turkish President—they certainly are critical of him—made it clear that they were totally opposed to any military dictatorship and that military government was not the answer to Turkey’s problems. Would it not also be useful if the Government here made the Turkish authorities, and particularly the President, aware of the fears that the Turkish Government, led by the President, will use what occurred on Friday as a means of exercising further repression and arresting people who were in no way involved in the coup? It is difficult to understand why 2,700 judges have been arrested, for example. How could they have been involved, directly or indirectly, in what happened last Friday?
It is not entirely clear exactly who was behind the coup attempt, but I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the breadth of the reaction and the rounding up of a lot of suspects. However, we do not want to speculate beyond that. I should like to make it clear to the House that the Prime Minister said yesterday:
“We call for the full observance of Turkey’s constitutional order and stress the importance of the rule of law prevailing in the wake of this failed coup. Everything must be done to avoid further violence, to protect lives and to restore calm.”—[Official Report, 18 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 559.]
I would add that we are watching closely to see that proper due process is applied in Turkey.
I represent a borough with a significant Turkish-speaking community, and on behalf of my constituents I should like to express solidarity with the Turkish people at this difficult time. What is the Government’s assessment of the alleged involvement of the Fethullah Gülen movement in the coup? What is the Minister’s understanding of the involvement of and links to that movement in this country?
It is far too early to say, although we quite understand that Gülen’s name has been in the spotlight and that Turkey has applied to the United States for his extradition. That is of course a matter for Turkey and the United States. However, it is important, as my hon. Friend has said, to understand that people living in the UK who have friends and family in Turkey will have concerns, and we need to issue reassurance to them that Her Majesty’s Government are taking a proper interest in what has happened in Turkey and are fully engaged in trying to ensure that calm will prevail there.
The Minister has rightly stressed the importance of Turkey as a significant NATO ally. Will he tell us what efforts are being made through the institutions and organisms of the NATO alliance to make it clear to the Turkish Government that democratic norms and adherence to the rule of law must be upheld?
I imagine that pretty well every NATO country will have been in touch with Turkey. Of course we want the conduct of the Turkish Government to be fully compatible with membership of NATO, and NATO has its own standards and democratic requirements, to which we want to see Turkey fully adhere.
Again, it is difficult to say at this early stage. However, I hope that our clear voice has been heard. One of the things that we have rightly said, and which the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) pointed out a moment ago, is that we welcome the fact that all the parties in Turkey have joined together to make it clear that they condemn the coup and that they wish to see democratic institutions prevail in Turkey. That echoes our own thoughts and beliefs, and I hope that our influence as diplomats and on the world stage can continue to encourage Turkey to step in that direction.
I warmly congratulate the Minister on his resurrection in all his glorious diversity. I am glad that he referred to consular staff in particular, because it was only in 2003 that the British consul general in Istanbul was murdered in a terrorist attack there. It has been our long-standing policy to bring Turkey into the European family of nations, whether within the European Union or more broadly through NATO, and to ensure that it faces west as much as, if not more than, it faces east towards Russia and Iran. With our leaving the European Union, how can we ensure that we enhance and strengthen that process of encouraging Turkey and pro-European Turkish politicians to face west?
Perhaps that could also be translated as “brevity”, Mr Speaker.
I commend the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for the reputation that he enjoys as a former Foreign Office Minister and for the concern that he always showed for those who work in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, often in very difficult circumstances. In the future, we will have bilateral opportunities with Turkey and, notwithstanding our imminent departure from the EU, I think that any way in which Turkey can replicate the standards that we wish to see in other democratic countries across the European mainland is something that will help it to achieve exactly the objectives that the hon. Gentleman has just described.
As my right hon. Friend said, we have an important relationship with Turkey, including our commitment to giving over £250 million in aid to support the 2.7 million refugees living there. Will the Government use that relationship to exert pressure on President Erdogan? He must not use the coup to legitimise a crackdown on all opponents of his regime, whether they were involved or not, and he must not further suppress freedom of speech.
I share my hon. Friend’s concern. Turkey has taken an enormous number of refugees, for which we should commend and thank it, and the plight of Syria has been partly shouldered by Turkey. The Government and everyone in the House would urge that the reaction to this failed coup does not lead to unacceptable consequences.
I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. President Erdogan has repeatedly refused to rule out the return of the death penalty in response to this event. What discussions have the Minister or the Foreign Secretary had—or what discussions do they intend to have—with the Turkish Government to make it clear that such a change of heart would be regressive and wrong?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. I absolutely agree with her on this rare occasion. Her Majesty’s Government strongly opposes the death penalty, which is the view of all like-minded Governments. It would be a deeply retrograde step, causing incalculable damage to Turkey’s standing at a time when it is important to embrace it within the world community and not see it become more isolated.
I welcome my right hon. Friend and other colleagues to the Front Bench. We have heard today about democracy, due process and the rule of law, but we are talking about a repressive regime that has arrested thousands. Does he share my concern about the conditions that these men and women and being kept in? When he goes to Turkey, will he ensure that their human rights are respected?
I assure my hon. Friend that when I am in Ankara tomorrow I will not be mealy-mouthed in saying what we think needs to happen. Human rights, not reintroducing the death penalty and the proper due process of law will of course form a large part of what we will urge upon the Turkish Government.
I am glad to hear the Minister talk about the importance of the rule of law and human rights. The last time I was in Turkey I went with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to get 10 imprisoned Members of Parliament out of jail, and I am glad to say that that was successful. Many of them were from the south-east of Turkey, and the situation in Kurdistan—south-east Turkey—is dire with appalling conditions. The military should be reined back and human rights need to be emphasised. We have particular concerns about parliamentarians given the attack on the Turkish Parliament, and I am sure that the Minister will convey this House’s concern for them and our hope that Turkey will continue as a democracy.
The right hon. Lady understands the region extremely well and has a long-standing reputation for defending human rights and understanding Kurdistan, which has an effect on Turkey. I will convey her thoughts. It is important to ensure that everything that we have been talking about on human rights is properly conveyed to the Turkish Government given that the region is complicated and has some acute and difficult pressures to handle.
I welcome the Minister to his role. I have every confidence in his ability to answer questions in this House on the many occasions when the Foreign Secretary will quite rightly be promoting Britain’s interests abroad, which is his job.
I ask the Government to reiterate again that our commitment to democracy in Turkey is tied in with our commitment to women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of Turkey’s other political and religious minorities, who may well be feeling threatened at the moment.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on being one of the House’s great comeback kings. He will definitely be able to keep the Secretary of State on the straight and narrow.
Does the Minister recognise the concern in constituencies such as mine, which has the largest Turkish-speaking population in the country, that the manner in which the west behaves towards Erdogan is frankly similar to how we behaved towards Mubarak? Erdogan is stretching democracy beyond belief—putting Syrians into Kurdish areas to dilute the Kurdish influence in his country cannot be right. Will the Minister be clear about how Erdogan treats the Kurdish minority in his country?
I understand what the right hon. Gentleman says. Given the Turkish population in his constituency, I am happy to offer him a face-to-face meeting to talk through the issues. We share the same value system and will have some difficult problems to resolve in the region with a collapsed Syria and terrorist pressure on Turkey, which is not free of such pressures and must work out how to handle them. We must appreciate that the issues are complicated, and I would welcome the right hon. Gentleman through the door of my office to discuss them in person.
I welcome the Minister to his post—he will do a brilliant job—and welcome his statement in support of the democratically elected Government in Turkey. However, the international community has in the past supported military Governments in Pakistan under General Musharraf and in Egypt under General Sisi. Is it now the positon of the UK Government always to support democratically elected Governments?
We obviously support democracy and all the values and rights that go with any properly functioning democratic state. It is a reality of the world that many countries are not perfect, and I hope that we can use our diplomatic pressure to improve countries and make them understand what world pressure really is. You made a comment about shortness, Mr Speaker, and I hope that means that I am able to punch above my weight as Minister of State.
The Turkish Government have already instituted oppressive measures towards Kurdish people in eastern Anatolia, including the unwarranted arrests of lawyers, politicians, journalists and members of the public, leading to the death of many civilians—women and children—which goes largely unreported in this country’s press. Will the Minister impress upon the Turkish Government when he meets representatives tomorrow that the failed coup should not be used as a pretext for further repression of democratic people?
I hope that I pretty much said that in my opening remarks. The failed uprising must not lead to perverse consequences along the lines that the hon. Gentleman describes. However, when it comes to terrorist acts, we need to understand that the Turkish Government have a legitimate right to defend themselves against those who would attack them.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s well-deserved return to the Front Bench. Does he understand that it is difficult to characterise the arrest of thousands of judges as a proportionate response to an act—however outrageous? Turkey’s membership of the Council of Europe must hang in the balance if it does not respect the independence of the judiciary.
My hon. Friend points out the potential consequences of certain courses of action, on which it is too early to form a judgment. It is absolutely true, however, that judges are necessary for a functioning judiciary, so we look forward to seeing that there is a functioning, independent judiciary that can properly apply the rule of law.
I welcome the Minister to his place. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn has expressed concern that the swift round-up of judges after the failed coup indicates that Erdogan had a pre-existing list of enemies, suggesting that much of Turkey’s response is predicated on score-settling. That mirrors the trends in recent years of suppression of free speech and civil liberties, of putting down political opponents and of fighting a brutal war against the Kurds. Will the Minister impress upon President Erdogan that the upholding of human rights and the rule of law is more important now than ever?
Yes, I will. Three days after this attempted coup, it is inevitable that there will be lots of speculative judgments about what was planned, what was pre-planned, whether there was a previous list and so on. It is impossible to know these things at this stage, which is one reason why I look forward to visiting, but the Government will speak out very strongly for human rights and for the equal and proper treatment of all citizens in Turkey.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his Front-Bench post. He brings formidable experience and intellect, and will serve the country well. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly annual session is due to take place in Istanbul this November. Does he agree that unless the security situation becomes untenable, that should go ahead in Istanbul, because despite the difficulties that may be ahead in where Turkey is heading, it will be far better to steer that if it stays in organisations such as NATO, rather than if it is exiled?
I commend my hon. Friend for what he has just said, which is both wise and practical. One of the most important ways in which Turkey can be engaged and persuaded is through the forum of NATO. We wish Turkey to remain a full and compliant member of NATO, and I hope that that meeting continuing as he suggests would provide a powerful platform for bringing about the kind of positive developments we would wish to see.
Turkey is democratic, but successive elections have shown that it is becoming increasingly authoritarian. How concerned is the Minister that President Erdogan will use this coup as a blank cheque to go against any or all of his opponents? The UK is leaving the European Union but we should still be concerned that Turkey gets its wish and eventually becomes a member. Will the Minister make it clear to President Erdogan on his visit tomorrow that if the death penalty is introduced, that will totally negate any ambitions Turkey has in that direction?
I believe I am right in saying that if Turkey were to reintroduce the death penalty, it would be disqualifying itself from membership or future membership of the EU, so this would be a self-defeating act and against the objective the hon. Gentleman has just described of Turkey’s potentially joining the EU. I think it is fair to say I have already largely answered the other questions he asked.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on their appointments. Turkey is a major NATO ally and partner, so how is it that we appear to have been completely blindsided by this military coup? What can be done with our partners to improve our situational awareness?
In a troubled country with pressures of that sort, when their own Government are completely blindsided, it is probably not surprising that we were unaware that this was going to happen. I put it to my hon. Friend that there may have been nobody across the world, whatever the scope of intelligence, who had firmly predicted that this was going to happen on Friday night.
I know that the Minister will impress on President Erdogan how important it is that people get a fair trial, regardless of how serious the offence someone is accused of committing—indeed, the more serious the alleged offence, possibly the more important it is that they get a fair trial. It is difficult to see how that can happen when so many judges have been arrested. What practical help will the Minister be offering to the Turkish Government to make sure that anyone who has been arrested and is going to be put on trial gets a fair trial, in accordance with the proper rule of law?
The most practical influence we can have on this is to join with like-minded countries and make our view clear collectively, be it through the EU or other forums that join together countries such as our allies in the United States. The collective and singular voice calling for upholding of the rule of law and the proper functioning of a democratic state is what we can most effectively provide at this early stage. The point about NATO has already been made. The point about the long-term objective of Turkey wanting to join the EU has already been made. I hope that bilateral discussions, the likes of which I hope to have tomorrow, will also impress on the Turkish Government exactly the point the hon. Gentleman has put to the House.
I, too, congratulate the Minister on his appointment. Will he say a little more about the fact that, as we know, human rights abuses against the Kurdish people have been increasing over time, and that the Kurdish people play such an important role in the fight against Daesh? Will he point that out in his conversations tomorrow? What more will he be saying about it?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point, because the UK and Turkey work in a close partnership to prevent extremist travellers from reaching Iraq and Syria, involving practical co-operation between our police and security forces. We want that to continue and we hope that it will, and we stand ready to help Turkey in any way we can during this difficult period.
The Minister referred to constitutional order being restored, but we know that in President Erdogan’s hands that is a dark and elastic concept, as the experience of religious, ethnical and regional communities, of journalists, of parliamentarians and of rights activists shows. If the Government are going to communicate strongly to the Turkish Government that this coup should not be used as an excuse for a carnival of repression, will he reinforce that by direct engagement with the democratic opposition in Turkey and with legitimate rights activists there, too?
The UK’s policy is to engage across all parties within Turkey. The hon. Gentleman should be aware of the EU Foreign Affairs Council statement yesterday, which condemned the coup and welcomed “the common position” of all
“the political parties in support of Turkey’s democracy.”
One aforementioned irony of this situation is that the Foreign Secretary published a scurrilous poem about President Erdogan. That is one of the glories of our democracy, but is the serious point not that, currently, if someone published a similar poem in Turkey they might be subject to arrest? What are the Government going to do to ensure that free speech is preserved, even in the current situation?
Exactly as I have been explaining for nearly an hour now, we have to apply the maximum and optimum diplomatic pressure we can, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and we will continue to do that. This is often about relationships and persuasion; I once teased the Foreign Secretary, but I am happy to say that we are getting on extremely well.
I warmly congratulate the Minister on his new and elevated role. What discussions has he had with colleagues in the Department for International Development to ensure the safety of and provisions agreed for refugees, including humanitarian aid arrangements?
We speak regularly to people in DFID, and I used to be a DFID Minister. I have not had any direct conversations, as I have been in this job for only 48 hours, but prompted by the wisdom of the hon. Lady, I assure her that I shall do this at the earliest opportunity.
I, too, congratulate the Minister on his appointment and thank him for his statement. There was much concern about human rights abuses in Turkey before the attempted coup. During the recent coup there have been documented attacks on Christian churches in Trabzon and Malatya. Will he draw to the attention of the Turkish Minister tomorrow the persecution of Christians and ethnic minorities, and the attacks on their property and on them in Turkey?
We strongly encourage Turkey to continue to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights, especially in the areas of minority rights, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We will continue to do that, and I fully take on board the hon. Gentleman’s point about the need to protect Christians in Turkey.
I, too, add my warm congratulations to the Minister on his appointment and express my hope that he will bring an enlightened perspective to some aspects of our foreign policy. At 4.30 today I was due to meet Garo Paylan, a Member of the Turkish Parliament for Istanbul and a leading member of the HDP, the principal social democratic opposition party. Obviously, he has been unable to make that meeting, but he has relayed to me his extreme concern that many members of that party are now being rounded up and detained by the Turkish authorities, despite having nothing whatsoever to do with this attempted coup. May I therefore ask the Minister to make it specifically clear to President Erdogan and the Turkish authorities that this country will not tolerate the repression of democratic opposition parties in that country, whose only misdemeanour is to fulfil their constitutional duty to criticise the Government?
The hon. Gentleman speaks passionately and forcefully on this matter, and I fully understand what he is saying. This is why our ambassador and all of our embassy team are closely watching exactly what is happening to democratic parties, and we are engaging with them across the spectrum of political involvement to make sure that we know exactly what is going on and can make our voice heard accordingly.