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Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 18 October 2016

9. What recent discussions he has had with his (a) Iraqi and (b) other international counterparts on the political situation in Iraq. (906645)

I met the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari, last week here in London at the Iraq-UK bilateral forum. The Foreign Secretary and I met other Foreign and Defence Ministers at the Washington conference on defeating Daesh held in the summer.

As my hon. Friend will know, the Kurdistan regional government has, for a long time, been short-changed—if not cut off completely—by the Government in Baghdad. Although there are some promising signs, Iraqi federalism needs to be genuine, with reliable revenue sharing. Will my hon. Friend convey that to his Iraqi counterparts and remind them of the contribution that the Kurds and the peshmerga are making in pushing back the advances of Daesh?

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the incredible work and bravery of the peshmerga. They are one of the toughest fighting forces in Iraq, and it is important that they are working with the newly trained Iraqi forces in the liberation of the city of Mosul, which has now begun. He is also right to raise concerns about the relationship between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. We have long maintained that it is important, and in our interests, to see a united Iraq, but recognising the federated models. It is in the constitution and, to that end, I was pleased that the bilateral forum that we had last week also included Falah Mustafa, the spokesman on foreign affairs for Kurdistan.

When I visited Iraq earlier this year with the Defence Committee, it was clear that we were moving much more slowly politically than we were militarily. What support is the Minister providing to Iraqi politicians more broadly to help to keep up with the military solutions as we progress in Mosul?

I welcome visits such as that conducted by the Defence Committee. The more engagement we have to see what is happening on the ground, the better we can understand the challenges that are faced. The hon. Lady is right to highlight one challenge that Iraq faces. As Daesh is pushed out of the country, more and more focus will be on the domestic matters that will then start to plague it. Sectarian tensions remain, the de-Ba’athification process still needs to come through, and we still need to look at counter-terrorism laws and accountability laws that must be pushed through. I can guarantee, however, that our embassy and our ambassador, Frank Baker, are doing excellent work to support the Government of Iraq.

I know the good work that Ambassador Frank Baker and his colleagues are doing in Baghdad and Erbil to make progress move along, and we should be very appreciative of their efforts.

On political developments in particular, what are the Minister’s observations on whether lessons have been learned on the issue of Sunni exclusion, which has so bedevilled political development in Iraq in recent years, and does he have greater hopes that the current Government will address that issue as the country moves forward?

This is quite a collection, as my right hon. Friend is now the third former Minister for either the middle east or Africa whom I have addressed. It is an honour that they are here providing their wisdom to the Chamber—[Interruption.] I will watch my back.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on the sectarian tensions I mentioned. We got it wrong, or rather Iraq got it wrong under the Malaki Government back in 2013. The absence of including Sunnis in Iraqi society led to the creation of the space for Daesh in the first place. The United Nations Development Programme and the Iraqi Government are working extremely hard to make sure that we get this right. The day after the guns fall silent in Mosul, what happens next? There must be a Sunni-led approach to ensuring that there is peace in Mosul.

No one can dispute the comprehensiveness of the Minister’s answers, for which we are grateful, but we do have time constraints.

The hon. Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) mentioned the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Minister will be aware that the KRG is hosting not just hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, but potentially 1 million internally displaced Iraqis. As they are not refugees, they do not receive the support or recognition that they need. If the conflict in Mosul leads to hundreds of thousands more refugees, will the Minister provide more support from our Government to the KRG?

The hon. Gentleman touches on a very serious matter that is challenging, to say the least. The UNDP recognises that once the liberation of Mosul takes place, refugees will flood out of the capital city in different directions, including into Kurdistan. When I visited, the camps were not in place. The refugees were in schools, preventing the beginning of the school curriculum in September. We pay tribute to the work of Kurdistan. Indeed, much in our DFID programmes has gone to support refugees in that part of Iraq.

The effort to free all areas of Iraq from Daesh control is fully supported on the Labour Benches. The ongoing effort to retake Mosul will play a vital role in that strategy. How does the Minister plan to ensure that the civilian population will be protected from the fighting and that civilians fleeing Mosul will receive the humanitarian help that they need?

As I mentioned, the UNDP is co-ordinating all aspects of the UN. Working with the Iraqis, it is taking the lead on the stabilisation and reconstruction of the city. Prime Minister Abadi has made it clear that no peshmerga—no Kurdish forces—or Shi’ite mobilisation forces should enter the city. This is a predominantly Sunni city and it should be liberated initially by Sunni Iraqi forces. A civilian-trained police force will provide important security after that.