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Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Iraq

Volume 754: debated on Monday 16 June 2014


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on Iraq and on last week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Statement is as follows.

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I will make a Statement on Iraq and update the House on the outcome of last week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The Sunni extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, issued a series of attacks and car bombings in Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Samarra, Ramadi and Jalawla, over the past 10 days, culminating in the capture of Mosul on Tuesday. From Mosul, ISIL, with other armed groups, took control of the towns on the main route to Baghdad, including Tikrit, 110 miles north of the capital. The Iraqi security forces initially proved unable to resist these attacks, although there are now signs of a fight-back in the area around Samarra.

These are extremely grave developments. ISIL is the most violent and brutal militant group in the Middle East. It has a long record of atrocities, including the use of IEDs, abductions, torture and killings. The reported massacre of 1,700 Shia air force recruits is more evidence of its brutality.

ISIL’s aim is to establish an Islamic state in the region, and it is pursuing this goal by attacking the Government of Iraq, gaining control of territory and inciting sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The group has bases in northern Syria as well as in Iraq. While the majority of its members are Iraqi or Syrian, it also includes a significant number of foreign fighters among its ranks. As I have previously told this House, we estimate the total number of UK-linked individuals fighting in Syria to include approximately 400 British nationals, who could present a particular risk should they return to the UK. Some of these are inevitably fighting with ISIL.

Over the past few days, I have held discussions with Foreign Ministers from the region, including with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, with whom I discussed the welfare of more than 60 Turkish citizens kidnapped in Mosul. Our national interest lies in supporting a sovereign and democratic Iraq to resist those threats, offering assistance where necessary, and working with others to prevent the spread of terrorism in Iraq and throughout the region.

On Friday, I held talks with Secretary Kerry in London. We agreed that the prime responsibility for leading the response to these events lies with the Iraqi Government. The United States, which is the country with the most appropriate assets and capabilities, is considering a range of options that could help the Iraqi security forces push back on ISIL advances. President Obama has been clear that action taken by the United States will succeed only if accompanied by a political response from the Iraqi Government.

We are taking action in three areas: promoting political unity among those who support a democratic Iraqi state and stability in the region, offering assistance where appropriate and possible, and alleviating humanitarian suffering. We have made it clear this does not involve planning a military intervention by the United Kingdom.

On the first of these points, yesterday I underlined to the Iraqi Foreign Minister the need for his colleagues to form a new and inclusive Government who will bring together all Iraq’s different groups and will be able to command support across Iraqi society. ISIL is taking advantage of political disaffection, including among Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and Sunni tribal fighters, who have lost trust in the Iraqi Government. Overcoming this will require a concerted political effort by the Government, including working with the Kurdistan regional government against this common threat. I welcome the fact that the Iraqi Supreme Court has today ratified the large majority of the results of April’s elections in Iraq, and I call on it to announce the full results as soon as possible to allow for the rapid formation of a new Government.

On our second objective, we are examining what more can be done to assist the Iraqi authorities directly in their security response. We are urging the Iraqi Government to take effective measures to organise their security forces effectively and push ISIL back from the areas it has occupied while protecting civilian life, infrastructure and vital services. We are discussing with the Iraqi Government areas for co-operation, including the possibility of offering counterterrorism expertise. We are also providing consular assistance to a small number of British nationals who have been affected. For this purpose, a UK-MoD Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to help assess the situation on the ground and assist the embassy in contingency planning.

Thirdly, we have responded rapidly to the humanitarian emergency. Around 500,000 people are reported to have been displaced in the north and now need urgent support. Last week we were the first donor country to send a field team to the Kurdistan region, where they met UN and NGO contacts and the Kurdistan authorities. My right honourable friend the International Development Secretary announced on Saturday that we would provide £3 million of immediate assistance including £2 million from the Rapid Response Facility to NGOs for water and sanitation and other emergency relief and £1 million to the UNHCR for mobile protection teams and for the establishment of camps. We are considering urgently what further assistance we could provide.

The rise of sectarianism and religious intolerance is fuelling instability in the Middle East. This has been compounded by the brutality of the Assad regime, whose relentless war against its own people has created an opening for extremists. That is why we will continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria who have had the courage to fight directly against ISIL and other extremists, as well as urging the Iraqi Government to take the political and military steps required to defeat such groups in Iraq. We are also working to reinforce stability across the region, including through providing significant security support to the Governments of Lebanon and Jordan, as well as £243 million in humanitarian assistance. We will intensify our efforts in the coming weeks and days to tackle this serious threat to international peace and security.

Addressing the crises of today should never prevent us from dealing with the longer-term issues that are fundamental to conflict prevention in many parts of the world. Last week I co-hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the largest ever summit held on this issue. One hundred and twenty eight countries and 79 Ministers attended, along with eight UN agency heads, as well as presidents, prosecutors from the ICC and international tribunals, and another 300 delegates from conflict-affected countries.

The summit had two primary objectives: to agree practical action to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war, and to begin to change global attitudes to these crimes. We opened the summit up to thousands of members of the public at 175 different public events. Our embassies held events to mirror what was going on in London for the entire 84-hour period and we mounted an intensive social media campaign that reached all parts of the world.

This was the most important milestone in our efforts to address this issue and my intention is to create unstoppable momentum in addressing these crimes, which are among the worst experienced in the world today. We set in motion a series of practical steps and commitments. We launched the first ever international protocol on how to document and investigate sexual violence in conflict, as a means of overcoming the barriers to prosecutions of these crimes.

I announced £6 million in new UK funding to support survivors of rape, and the US, Finland, Bahrain, Australia, Japan and others also made new and generous pledges. The African Union also announced a pilot project in the Central African Republic to respond to the urgent needs of victims of sexual violence. The Somali Government launched a new action plan on Somalia, supported by the UN and the international community, for addressing sexual violence, which has blighted the lives of thousands of women, men and children.

Within the summit, I convened a special meeting on security in Nigeria following the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April and a summit on this issue in Paris last month. We agreed that a regional intelligence fusion unit should be made operational immediately. The countries of the region also agreed rapidly to implement joint or co-ordinated patrols along their borders, and Cameroon committed to add a battalion to the regional task force. The UK, the US and France pledged to support these regional efforts. On behalf of the UK, I announced a separate package of support for Nigeria, including tactical training for the Nigerian army, assistance to regional security and intelligence co-operation, and a joint UK-US educational programme to educate an additional 1 million children in Nigeria. All the parties present also agreed on the need for UN sanctions against Boko Haram’s leadership and Ansaru, another dangerous terrorist organisation in Nigeria.

Finally, states and delegates at the summit joined together to sign a statement of action, uniting Governments, UN agencies, civil society, experts and survivors with a shared determination to end sexual violence in conflict. We will now work hard to ensure that the momentum is sustained and accelerated in the months and years ahead. We will publish a comprehensive report on the summit that will distil the expert recommendations and political discussions that took place. This will serve as a reference point for future work.

We will turn our focus to practical implementation of the international protocol in priority countries. We will ensure it is translated and disseminated around the world, and we will champion its use and promote its principles in the projects that we fund and in international institutions. We will continue to use our team of experts to strengthen the capacity of affected countries to address accountability and to work with UN special representative Zainab Bangura and UN Action to improve international co-ordination and the capability of militaries to respond and prevent sexual violence.

For the past two years the United Kingdom has led the way internationally in addressing these vital issues and we must continue to do so until the scourge of sexual violence is finally confronted, addressed and defeated”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating her right honourable friend’s Statement made in another place earlier today. Let me come to Iraq first. Iraq clearly faces fundamental threats to its integrity, security and stability. Faced with a lightning advance by a few thousand ISIL fighters from their base in Syria, the Iraqi army’s presence in the northern and western Sunni-majority provinces of Iraq effectively has collapsed.

Beneath these latest advances for ISIL is a deeper and fundamental question, not just for Iraq but also for its neighbouring countries across the region. That question surely is: can they in time develop a pluralistic, democratic politics where people live together as citizens rather than divide along sectarian, ethnic or religious lines? Alas, the answer today still remains uncertain.

Inevitably and understandably, these events have rekindled the debate around military intervention in Iraq 11 years ago. For most British people, including many of us who supported the action at the time, the fears of those opposed to the intervention have been vindicated by subsequent events. It is futile to deny that subsequent history as surely as it would be folly to repeat it, yet it is also facile to suggest that the crisis affecting Iraq today can be attributed solely to the consequences of intervention. Such an account denies the truth that the slide towards crisis in Iraq has been exacerbated by the civil war in Syria. These are two nations, both sitting astride the Sunni/Shia fault line, engulfed increasingly by sectarian violence while the rest of the region has looked on as sectarian tensions rise. Tragically for Iraq, the hallmark of Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated Government has been a sectarian rather than an inclusive approach. By way of contrast, the welcome progress made since 2003 by the leadership of the Kurdistan regional government only serves further to highlight the extent of the Iraqi central government’s failures in moving the country forward

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Can she set out what specific steps are being taken by the UK Government in co-ordination with allies to encourage the formation of a new Government in Iraq, bearing in mind, as she told us, that the large majority of results now in April’s elections have been ratified? Secondly, what conversations are taking place to urge Prime Minister Maliki to take concrete measures to reduce sectarian tensions, empower regional government and reprofessionalise the Iraqi armed forces?

The Foreign Secretary today and in statements over the past week confirmed that military intervention in Iraq is not being contemplated. We welcome that assurance. We do not believe that the Government should agree to any proposals significantly to increase the nature or scale of support that we are already giving to the Iraqi Government without a much wider debate in Parliament and indeed in the country. I hope that the Minister and the Government agree.

It is clear that Iran is heavily engaged in Iraq today and it is disappointing to hear Tehran apparently ruling out direct talks with the US earlier this morning, but we very much welcome confirmation that the Foreign Secretary has been in touch with his Iranian counterpart earlier today. Does the Minister agree that there is now an urgent case for ensuring an effective British diplomatic presence in Tehran to help co-ordinate discussions? The Minister may be able to tell us that there will be some news about this matter very shortly. Certainly, her right honourable friend hinted as much in another place this afternoon.

As the crisis continues, the scale of the humanitarian suffering of course also grows, so we warmly welcome the additional humanitarian funding that the UK Government have already announced. Will any further requests from Iraq’s Government for additional humanitarian support be considered promptly? Many British citizens will have watched the scenes both in Syria and in Iraq with growing concern and anxiety, so it is right that we pay tribute to the British intelligence and security forces who are doing such vital work to keep us safe. Will the Minister set out the Government's latest assessment of the threat posed by British citizens returning from the region?

The Government will be concerned, as we all are, with the safety of British diplomatic staff in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra. Will the Minister assure the House that all the necessary plans are in place to guarantee their safety? The most urgent task now is for Iraq’s leadership to unite and galvanise its response to this crisis. The future of the whole country and the fate of millions depend upon it.

I turn briefly to the preventing sexual violence in conflict summit in London, which the Minister spoke of. That summit was a real credit to the work of the campaigners and activists across the world who tirelessly worked to raise this issue up the political agenda. The British Government and the Foreign Secretary have done a great deal in recent months. We from this side commend them sincerely for that work. However, not least in this House, if I may say so, it is important that we commend the Minister for her important part in this exercise. Indeed, I had the pleasure of reading two—I do not know how many she made last week—fairly short speeches in which she puts the overwhelming case very well.

The Foreign Secretary was right though to say in his Statement that the priority has to be to translate words into practical action, and we welcome the further £6 million pledged by the UK to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict. The statement of action to tackle the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence in conflict, which is referred to in the Statement, was indeed an important step forward. Alongside agreeing a coherent legal framework, can the Minister set out this evening, or in writing, what further steps may be taken to tackle some of those underlying issues that contribute so much to impunity—such as the independence of the judiciary—within conflict-affected states? We look forward to the publication of the comprehensive report on the summit. It may be too early for the noble Baroness to give us any indication of how long it will be before that is published, but we hope it is not too long. The real test, as I know the Government recognise, is now whether the summit here in London can make a real difference on the ground in conflict zones across the world. The Minister and the Foreign Secretary will have our support to make sure that work is done.

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord opposite for his support, both in relation to a difficult emerging situation in Iraq and his kind words about ending sexual violence in conflict. There is no doubt that sectarianism, which appears to be the root cause of so much of what we see across the region, can be resolved only by making sure that Governments respond to the needs of their citizens and respond in a way that is pluralistic and does not make communities feel isolated. There is no doubt that successful elections and the subsequent formation of an inclusive Government is going to be an essential part of rebuilding Iraq.

I heard the very gracious words from the noble Lord in relation to the Iraq war. I, of course, come at it from a very different perspective. I was part of the anti-war position. Even I would have to say that it cannot be said that intervention was the sole cause of what we see now, but we would all probably have to admit that it had a significant impact on the region. In terms of working with the region, it is right that the relationship with Iran has been strengthened over time. Noble Lords will be aware of an imminent announcement—something could be said tomorrow—about what we intend in terms of our relationship with Iran. The noble Lord asked what steps we are taking to support the new Government. I think the new Government have to be formed as soon as possible and have to be inclusive. It is right that we support the Government of Mr Maliki, but also that we demand of him conditionality in relation to how he makes sure that all Iraqis are included in any future Government. I take it upon myself to ensure that the House is always informed of changes and I assure the noble Lord that if there are to be changes to our approach in Iraq I will certainly bring the matter back to the House.

We stand ready to provide further humanitarian support. I am proud of the fact that we were among the first to respond and we keep that support under review. Of course, there is an ongoing threat from returning fighters. The Home Office is very aware of this. Noble Lords will be aware of high-profile arrests that have been made. It is important that we continue to monitor that situation, as well as supporting our staff and ensuring that our travel advice is kept up to date. Of course, a number of British nationals either live or work out there.

Turning briefly to ending sexual violence in conflict, the noble Lord is absolutely right: of course it is great that we had this conference but it must translate into real action. If everybody does what they pledged to do at the summit last week, we will have a real, genuine and long-term impact on tackling and ending sexual violence in conflict. It is important for this to be translated into practical action, including tackling what is known as the underlying impunity. The way we do that is by supporting the legal systems of individual countries and ensuring that the evidence is gathered properly and prosecutions are prepared properly and that we get convictions for these offences which send out a very strong message.

Of course, the particular part of the summit I led on was the work and role of faith communities in ending sexual violence. Sometimes in those situations they are the first point of call and only form of support. More fundamentally than that, if there is to be a culture change, where the shame sits on the perpetrator and not on the survivor, faith communities have an incredibly important role to play and must lead this challenge.

My Lords, of course I welcome the powerful message from the violence in conflict conference last week. That was a very good initiative. Obviously, it needs to reach not just states and Governments but all the non-state actors and private armies around the world that are engaged in violence.

Does my noble friend not agree that what is happening now in northern Iraq is an immediate threat to our national direction, purpose and security of a very high order, putting in question many of the policy assumptions we have had in recent years? I see no particular point in rowing backwards now to the issues of the difficult past in Iraq but will she assure us that we will continue to work very closely—as I think she has indicated that we are doing already—with the regional powers? That is obviously with Iraq itself but also with Turkey, Egypt and Iran, and even with Saudi Arabia, which of course has a Sunni affiliation but can do a great deal, I think, to help reduce support for the butchers of Mosul, and of course with the United States as well, with its technology and the proposals it has already made. Does she agree that in doing so, sensibly and with our own unique experience, we could help to halt this grim development which breaks open the old assumptions that have governed the nations of the Middle East since the end of the Ottoman Empire, and that we should do so, even if at the moment we do not like Mr al-Maliki’s divisive policies? They may have to be changed, but the immediate task is to prevent a further smashing up of the Middle East order, which we have sought to protect over the past few years.

My Lords, as always, my noble friend makes an important point. He will be heartened to hear that over the weekend my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Zebari; the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Davutoglu; the Foreign Minister of Iran, Zarif; and to John Kerry on Friday. He and the Government absolutely accept that this has to be resolved as a regional issue. Every state has a responsibility to support stability, including Saudi Arabia. We cannot accept that countries are affiliated to certain elements within Iraq. We have to encourage all Iraqis—the Sunni community, the Shia community and indeed the Kurds and the Kurdistan regional government—to work together to provide that stability, which is so badly needed.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that since 2010 I have been raising the issue of the 300,000 women in Bangladesh who were raped by the Pakistani army. Therefore, as a campaigner I take pleasure in congratulating her on her leadership and that of the Foreign Secretary. I welcome the international protocol that has been announced. It marks a crossroads in protecting vulnerable women, although I know that in the end implementation is everything.

The £6 million that has been announced is much to be welcomed, especially if it adds to the pot of the international community. Given the past week’s momentous event, would the Minister say whether there is any room to create a constructive provision of support and resources for the survivors of past atrocities and conflicts? In particular, what is her view about measures to provide justice, reparation and apologies to the 300,000 Bangladeshi women victims of the Pakistani army in the 1971 war?

The noble Baroness makes an important point and has tirelessly campaigned on this issue for many years. As the Minister with responsibility for both Pakistan and Bangladesh, I was incredibly pleased to have the opportunity to convince both countries to sign the international declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict. I was delighted to see that both countries took that pledge. This could have consequences for their own nations and states, but both countries are also huge providers of peacekeeping troops, which are sometimes the first point of defence where this sexual violence happens.

Supporting victims was an essential part of the summit and one of the priorities. It includes supporting victims now, but also supporting victims from the past. As the noble Baroness will be aware, many of these horrific stories of sexual violence do not even come to the fore because victims are not prepared to speak about them. One thing that we can all agree on is that the summit gave a voice to survivors, and that in itself will start to tackle the cultural impunity.

My Lords, one of the reasons why my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and I always attempt to speak at the same time is because we so often agree completely with what each other has to say. In addition to endorsing everything that my noble friend said, I simply want to address two or three issues.

While I congratulate the Minister and the Government wholeheartedly on the ending sexual violence summit, she will understand if I concentrate my remarks on Iraq. I understand where the Government are coming from in keeping their assistance extremely limited at the moment, but will she tell the House whether the Prime Minister continues to abide by his royal prerogative in taking any measures that he considers necessary in order to persist with bringing about a resolution to the situation? This is the gravest political situation that we have seen since 2003, because if ISIS gets control of a swathe of territory we are in real trouble.

My second question relates to what the Foreign Secretary has been doing in his conversations with the Prime Ministers of the regional powers. Are we encouraging Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have recently thawed relations with each other, to continue to resolve this situation together? The noble Lord, Lord Bach, referred to Iran not having direct talks with the United States, but if Saudi Arabia and Iran can work together, that would be significantly helpful.

Finally, has there been any discussion in the Foreign Office and government about taking this issue to the United Nations Security Council? If there is one point where we need decisive action by the international community, it seems to be now. Events are moving very quickly indeed, so I exhort them to do so.

My noble friend will be aware that the United States has said that all options are still on the table, but I can say that the United Kingdom is not planning a military intervention. We are looking urgently at other ways to help, examining where, for example, we can give support in relation to counterterrorism expertise.

My noble friend makes an important point about regional players. Saudi Arabia and Iran of course have a role to play. Many of these groups and countries unfortunately feel a sense of affiliation to certain sections within Iraq and it is important that we stress again the need for stability and communities to work together. I am not aware of any proposals at this stage for United Nations Security Council involvement, but if I do I will certainly write to my noble friend.

My Lords, with regard to Iraq, can the noble Baroness say whether she has any information about the alleged presence inside Iraq of units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or indeed of any other Iranian forces? I ask that because, if there is any truth in that allegation, it could have a very destabilising effect. Secondly, will HMG consult with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government with a view to finding out whether Kurdish military forces could come to the assistance of, and possibly recover, the city of Mosul? If that could be done, it would enable a large number of displaced people to return to their homes and avoid the necessity of their being in camps.

My Lords, the situation on the ground is of course becoming clearer as each day goes by. Even the Iraqi Government were to some extent caught by surprise by the pace of what happened in the north. I cannot provide specific information on the noble Lord’s questions. I can say that the Iraqi Government will lead the protection of their communities. Of course, that will include the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is a part of the wider support in bringing stability to the country. We will of course support the Iraqi Government. That is why it is important that they are formed as soon as possible.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend, the Foreign Secretary and all those working on the Ending Sexual Violence initiative at the Foreign Office on the global summit last week. As a member of the steering board of the initiative, I spent much of the week there, and it was truly impressive. It was a coming together of government Ministers from across the world, NGOs, campaigners and survivors. The events were numerous and very moving. I hope it has started a global movement that will draw a red line that makes sexual violence unacceptable in future.

What is happening now in Iraq is an illustration of exactly how important the initiative is. There has been so much sexual violence, often not publicly spoken about, in Syria, and it will be happening right now, as we speak, in Iraq. Can my noble friend please assure me that the situation for women and children there will be considered when the Government are thinking about how to address the overall situation?

I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend. She has worked tirelessly on the issue and has been a huge asset in making the summit a success. Of course, sexual violence unfortunately takes place where security breaks down. We heard the harrowing accounts from victims where, tragically, women’s bodies are used as battlegrounds when conflict strikes.

I think my noble friend will accept that this change will take time. Ultimately, it will happen when there is a culture change, when communities stand up and say, “This will not be tolerated”, wherever the conflict zone and whatever the situation on the ground, and when that support mechanism is there. When perpetrators know that if they commit, command or condone any form of sexual violence, they will be brought to justice, we will truly start to end this scourge.

My Lords, I will be very quick, I promise the noble Lord.

First, I congratulate the Minister and her right honourable colleague the Foreign Secretary on their commitment and on the conference last week. It was a huge privilege and very moving—I agree with the noble Baroness—to attend that event, as I did on behalf of the equality scheme. I know that my colleagues from the FCO team were also there. It was also good to bump into my noble friend Lord McConnell and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I spent most of Thursday there, and I was particularly impressed and moved by the exhibition by the women from the Congo and the workshop of young women from all over the world. It was a brilliant event, and I did tweet about it like mad all the way through.

Can the Minister give us some idea about the likely timescale and whether some thought has been given to the markers that will need to happen to get to where we want to be? She is quite right that this is a long haul. It is going to take some time but it seems that there are events happening across the world that need to be used to take this forward. I wondered whether some planning had been put into that.

I also wondered whether the Minister was as irritated as I was, and as I am sure other people were, by the comments that John Humphrys made on the “Today” programme this morning. He seemed to suggest that because Angelina Jolie is a very beautiful and famous woman it somehow undermined her support, which has been totally admirable and long-term, for this issue and that this meant that our Foreign Secretary did not have his eye on the ball on other issues. I wondered whether everybody else was as irritated as I was by that discussion.

First, I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution at the summit and for her support for it. She is absolutely right that we must have milestones going forward and she will be heartened to know that already the work has started. Expert teams have been put in place and are working on the ground to help countries prepare their action plans. She will also be aware of two new indictments that have been accepted at the ICC, both with specific reference to sexual violence crimes. It is important that we see more prosecutions but those will be milestones in themselves. Further work will happen at the United Nations General Assembly meeting later this year but she can be assured that the Foreign Secretary is incredibly passionate about this issue. He and his team will make sure that it will continue to be taken forward.

In terms of the comments, that is everyday sexism—what can we say about it? If there are men out there who believe that women cannot be beautiful and brainy, perhaps they should read the speech that the Foreign Secretary gave in Washington last year, when he said that it is finally time for women to take their place at the important tables where decisions are made and for their full economic, political and social participation, and that it is only then that we will have a truly fair society. I hope that the BBC will pick up Hansard.

I congratulate the Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Government on last week’s superb conference, which I had the honour to attend and speak in. However, does the Minister not agree that it throws up a curious anomaly, which should be addressed—and I believe she would wish to address it—between the principled stand of the United Kingdom and that of the European Union on rape as a war crime? The European Union overrules the Geneva Convention by saying that medical care for women victims who have been impregnated in the war should not include abortion if that is against local law. The Minister will of course agree that the United Kingdom is the single biggest donor to ECHO and that the second and third biggest, which are France and the Netherlands, agree with us. Is there a possibility that the Minister would be willing to work on this important issue, since the European Union provides medical care for every single war zone globally and is therefore treating women victims purely on humanitarian grounds and not under the Geneva Convention?

While the Minister is concentrating on that question, perhaps I might ask an important question about Tikrit in northern Iraq. Will the British Government associate themselves with Tikrit in future as a wholly Kurdish city or would they be willing to comment—perhaps to the KRG as well as to the Baghdad Government—that since maybe only 25% of Tikrit’s population is Kurdish, having the Peshmerga contain the city as it is at the moment might cause further unrest in future once Mosul has been cleared? If Tikrit is already clear, might the Government be willing to put some pressure at that moment on the KRG?

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. I will go back on that issue and write to her because she raises a significant point about sexual violence in conflict. In relation to Tikrit, where conflict happens it creates an opportunity for some of these ongoing challenges around disputes to rear their head again. I am sure these will form part of the discussions that we will have with the Iraqi Government about forming and creating an environment in which these discussions can happen. We can then deal in a united way with making sure that the country is stable.

My Lords, I apologise to the Minister and to noble Lords that my slight impediment made me miss the first minute or so of her Statement. One is greatly heartened by the participation we have had in the conference to end sexual violence which arises as a result of warfare. I would like to ask the Minister specifically about Iraq. We and the West played a huge part in what is happening today. We gave our blessing to Nouri al-Maliki. For more than 10 years, 1,000 people a month have died in Iraq. It may be called democracy, but it is not what democracy is intended to deliver. I worry that we almost pass over the hint that our US allies talk about making an arrangement with Rouhani in Iran. Under Rouhani’s presidency we have had two executions virtually every day since he was elected. He and his Iranian revolutionary guards, the Quds force, have put tremendous pressure on al-Maliki. We have seen some of the outrages, such as the slaughter of unarmed Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf on 1 September 2013. In the present situation, should we not be looking outside the box? Are we not going to have a similar civil war—

Especially as the noble Lord was not here at the beginning and we are over time, perhaps he would conclude.

I will do my best. Is it not a fact that we will have a similar civil war to that happening in Syria if we do not—as the Minister suggested—get international intervention? She should know as well as I do that, unless we resolve the Iraqi problem with some sort of federal solution, we will not make any impact for the good of that community.

My Lords, of course we have interests with Iran and feel that it is an important player. It is an important part of the stability that can and will be created in the region. Even for somebody who was vehemently against the intervention in Iraq, it is wrong to distil everything down to a simplistic analysis. Not everything is due to western action or inaction. We have to be quite bold in saying to the region, to the people and to the Governments in these regions, “You have to take responsibility and create pluralistic Governments and societies where people feel that the rule of law applies”. It is only then that stability will be created.

House adjourned at 8.04 pm.