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Chemical Weapons Investigation: Northern Iraq

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2022

11. If his Department will request that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conduct an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by Turkey in northern Iraq. (902113)

17. If his Department will refer allegations of the use of chemical weapons by Turkey in northern Iraq to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for investigation. (902119)

The Government are aware of reports that Turkish forces have used white phosphorus in northern Iraq. However, we have no direct evidence to support those claims. Of course, we take all allegations of this nature seriously, and we are committed to upholding the chemical weapons convention.

A Turkish CHP opposition Member of Parliament who asked the question about the alleged use of chemical weapons has received a summary of proceedings to prosecute him for terrorism. Does the Minister agree that it is time for us to follow in the footsteps of the Belgian Supreme Court by revisiting our designation of the PKK as a terrorist organisation? Does he also agree that not doing so gives cover to Turkey’s human rights abuses against Kurds living both within and beyond its borders?

The hon. Lady mentions the PKK. We should be very clear that we regard the PKK to be a terrorist organisation—that is why we have proscribed it—and that we believe Turkey has a legitimate right to defend itself against this form of terrorism.

Sezgin Tarikulu—the Turkish MP to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) has referred—said: “I watched the footage of the alleged chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are crimes against humanity. Tomorrow I will submit a PQ on the accuracy of these allegations.” For saying that, and that alone, he has been indicted for terrorism and supporting PKK rhetoric, despite the fact that a Turkish Minister has confirmed that Turkey does use gas. Sezgin is a member of the CHP, the founding party of Turkey; he is not of the Kurdish party. Does the Minister not recognise that the overreach of the PKK terrorist definition is shutting down democracy in Turkey and hurting our allies in Syria, Turkey and Iraq?

As I have said, we have no direct evidence to support the allegations to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but we are of course committed to upholding the chemical weapons convention. I myself met the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last month, and we will keep these issues under review.