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House of Commons Hansard
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27 June 2016
Volume 612
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3. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on progress in the campaign against Daesh. [905475]

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14. What recent assessment he has made of the progress of the international campaign to defeat ISIS/Daesh. [905486]

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The next meeting of coalition Defence Ministers will take place on 20 July. The campaign against Daesh is making progress. With coalition support, Iraqi forces now hold Ramadi and Hit, are engaged in clearing Daesh from Fallujah and have begun preparatory operations for retaking Mosul. The Syrian democratic forces are currently conducting operations around Manbij.

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Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Britain is playing the second biggest part in the coalition after the United States of America, and that our involvement is making a real difference to the fight against Daesh?

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I am pleased to confirm that the United Kingdom is playing a significant role in the coalition. The RAF has undertaken more strikes in Iraq and, since December, in Syria than any coalition nation apart from the United States. We now have more than 1,100 service personnel supporting operations in the region, and that is making a real difference to the momentum of the campaign.

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What assistance are the Government providing to the Jordanian authorities in the light of the recent deterioration in security there, and especially in the light of the recent suicide attack that killed six soldiers outside a refugee camp?

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We have a very strong defence relationship with Jordan that includes work on training forces together. We will obviously continue to keep that under review, not least because of the pressure on the Jordanian-Syrian border.

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Last week it was reported that US fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian bombers attacking American-backed rebels in Syria. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to de-conflict competing allied air forces in the campaign against Daesh?

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There is a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Russia about the conduct of air operations. We do not co-operate with Russia, but there is a mechanism by which we can avoid that kind of conflict. The easiest way to avoid it would be for Russia to stop assisting the regime and to stop bombing innocent civilians.

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Opposition activists and Kurdish officials have said that hundreds of Kurds are fleeing Manbij, and that the Syrian defence forces are engaged in clashes there with Daesh. If Manbij is captured, it will be the biggest strategic defeat for Daesh in Syria. Can the Secretary of State comment on the situation, and particularly that of the Kurdish civilians, who are being abducted in their hundreds?

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They are, and that is why we need to bring this terrible conflict in Syria to an end. Progress is being made by the Syrian Democratic Forces in closing off what is called the Manbij pocket and breaking the supply line between Raqqa and the Turkish border, which restricts the ability of Daesh to trade oil illegally across the border or to recruit foreign fighters the other way. Progress is being made around Manbij, and I hope that one day, when Manbij is recaptured, those same forces can move on towards Raqqa itself.

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To carry out its activities, Daesh requires funding. What discussions is my right hon. Friend having with our allies to cut off the funding for Daesh?

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International efforts are under way to restrict the ability of Daesh to raise money from selling oil, artefacts or anything else, or to access other funding on the international markets. That is work that requires co-operation right across the coalition, and it is work in which the United Kingdom is playing a leading part.

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While we have been otherwise preoccupied, the atrocities that have been carried out by Daesh over the last few weeks remain deeply worrying. Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that he will co-operate through NATO bilaterally with other European allies and take strategic action unilaterally to make sure that everything possible is done to try to stop these appalling atrocities?

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Yes, we are facing a most barbarous enemy, which is not simply torturing and killing innocent civilians in Syria and Iraq, but still poses a very direct threat to us here in western Europe—on the first anniversary of the slaughter of 30 of our subjects in Sousse by an equivalent extremist. Whether it is through the international coalition, through the use of NATO assets or through other bilateral frameworks, let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely committed to this fight and to the eventual defeat and degradation of Daesh.