Skip to main content


Volume 696: debated on Monday 26 November 2007

My Lords, we did call the next Question. There was a palpable pause in your Lordships’ House and I think that the House is probably ready to move on.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have any plans in place to respond to any future Turkish invasion of northern Iraq.

My Lords, we condemn the activities of the PKK, as we condemn all acts of terrorism, and we regret the loss of life that recent PKK attacks have caused. We continue to work with Turkey and with the Iraqi national and Kurdish regional governments to resolve these issues diplomatically and to prevent Iraqi territory from being used as a base for attacks on Turkey.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that Turkey really deserves our sympathy and does she accept that if Turkey and Iraq can get together they might be able to defeat the PKK?

Yes, my Lords. We certainly sympathise with regard to the attacks on Turkey. My noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown said in a debate on 23 October that he welcomed the self-restraint that Turkey had shown. We wholeheartedly agree that these things can be resolved diplomatically if the Iraqi Government, the Kurdish regional government and the Turkish Government get together.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree with my view, based on my visit to south-east Turkey last month, that the issue is how to engender support among Turks with a Kurdish background for dialogue and for the rejection of PKK terrorism? Does this not entail dialogue with the Democratic Society Party and is this not vital if Turkish aspirations to join the European Union are not to be derailed?

Indeed, my Lords, it is. We welcome the election of 19 largely Kurdish MPs to the Turkish parliament last month. We believe that this is a good way forward and hope that the Turkish Government will take advantage of having those elected Kurdish members in their parliament to pursue dialogue.

My Lords, when the Foreign Secretary met Mr Gul recently, did he urge him not to send troops across the frontier into northern Iraq, particularly in view of the assurances that were given at the recent conference in Istanbul by the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi Prime Minister? Did the Foreign Secretary also say to him that if the DTP is banned as threatened—to take up the point made by the Minister—this will seriously jeopardise the negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the European Union?

My Lords, whenever we have discussions with our Turkish friends about these issues, we always advise them to find a solution to these problems diplomatically and through dialogue. On the investigation of alleged links between the DTP and the PKK and the possible shutting down of these offices, we continue to follow the situation closely. Again, we encourage the Government to pursue dialogue and not to take this sort of action.

My Lords, in the light of the Minister’s remark about the condemnation of terrorism, are the Government having any second thoughts about the decision to exclude Hamas from the search for Middle East peace?

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know better than I, these matters are being discussed at Annapolis this week. We must wait for the results of that conference. At the moment, the Government’s position has not changed. Until Hamas recognises the four principles set down by the quartet, we will not move on that.

My Lords, does my noble friend subscribe to the view that the United States or British military forces should not be drawn into a conflict between the Turkish Government and the PKK?

Yes, my Lords. That is why we are urging our friends to solve these issues diplomatically. It is not for the UK Government to embark on such actions, but we will encourage our friends to solve these things diplomatically.

My Lords, of course we do not want to be drawn into all sorts of problems around the world with which we cannot cope; we have enough on our hands already. The Turks have behaved with considerable restraint, which arises in part from the United States Government promising that there will be additional steps to hunt out the PKK terrorists, whom the Minister has rightly condemned, and I think that we all sympathise with Turkey’s position on that. We are in a way entangled because we are working with the United States. Does the Minister have any information on these additional steps, given that neither the Kurdistan authorities nor the Iraqi Government have been able to hunt out the terrorist camps in the Kandil mountains? At the moment, the terrorists remain free to attack Turkey whenever they want.

My Lords, as I understand it, the Iraqi Government are taking steps to prevent the PKK from going into Turkish territory or attacking the Turks. They are taking various practical actions in relation to the PKK. We are trying to encourage the Turkish Government to have negotiations with the Iraqi Government and to include the regional government of Kurdistan. To date, the Turks have been reluctant to do that, but we believe that it is important for all three partners to negotiate a solution.

My Lords, my noble friend has properly said that, in the face of very inflamed public opinion, the Turkish Government have shown remarkable constraint. Does she agree that not only should we seek to bring the Iraqi Government and the Turkish Government together, but we should be ready to help the Turkish Government in any way technically and otherwise, although not militarily, to patrol and ensure that the border is as secure as is practicable in very difficult circumstances?

My Lords, I do not know what practical measures we are taking in terms of securing the border; I shall come back to my noble friend in writing on that. The fact that we advocate so strongly Turkey’s membership of the European Union and are working with our partners towards her accession will help in relation to the dialogue that Turkey is undertaking with Iraq. That is because we help to strengthen Turkey all the time by assisting in finding solutions to various problems. Turkish accession to the European Union is something that we must keep very much in mind at all times.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree, therefore, that we should give our maximum support to the initiative of Mr Ahtisaari, the European Union envoy, to reinforce the ideas for a dialogue mentioned by the President of Turkey?

Yes, my Lords, we support the initiative being undertaken by Mr Ahtisaari and we await his report with interest.