The Foreign Secretary has spoken to Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu about the operation in Afrin. We have called for de-escalation for the protection of civilians, while recognising Turkey’s legitimate interest in the security of its borders. It remains in our shared interests to focus on achieving a political settlement in Syria.
Does the Foreign Secretary recognise that the Kurdish-led Administration in Afrin has built a secular, democratic system that has worked collaboratively with the international community to defeat Daesh, most recently in Raqqa? Does he accept that the international community owes a debt of honour to the Kurds? Will he step up efforts to stop the bloodshed in and around Afrin?
I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but we must also recognise the legitimate security interests of Syria. They consider that, having launched Operation Olive Branch in January, it is in response to attacks from the Afrin area, and they believe that they are in compliance with proper UN standards.[Official Report, 21 February 2018, Vol. 636, c. 4MC.]
That is primarily a question on Syria, rather than Turkey. However, I would point out to the right hon. Lady that the PKK is a proscribed organisation in the UK, whereas the organisations to which she principally refers are not and so can be spoken to.
We on this side of the House unequivocally condemn Turkey for its disgraceful assault on Afrin. We are especially appalled that it has enlisted in its army the very jihadist militias that the Kurdish forces have worked so hard to drive out of northern Syria. If the Foreign Secretary is unable to join me today in condemning Turkey, will the Minister of State at least explain why he believes that “Turkey’s legitimate interest in the security of its borders” gives it the right to brutally attack the innocent Kurdish community in Afrin?
I do not think it is exactly as the right hon. Lady says. We need to recognise Turkey’s legitimate interests. Of course we condemn any kind of attacks on civilians and we wish to see a de-escalation of that, but the legitimate rights of Turkey should be recognised.
The truth is that the Turkish assault is part of a broader pattern, where too many foreign parties engaged in the Syrian civil war are now acting just like the Assad regime itself—without any regard for international law. When the Government obtained a military mandate for joining the coalition action in Syria, David Cameron guaranteed in this House that it was “exclusively” to combat the threat from Daesh. Given that that threat is now almost totally gone, will the Minister of State please spell out the coalition’s current military objectives in Syria? When will he seek a mandate for them from this House?