HC Deb 15 October 1991 vol 196 cc141-2
9. Mr. Jacques Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the deployment of British forces in Turkey as part of the instant response force.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

United Kingdom forces have played and continue to play a major part in helping to ensure the safety of Iraqi citizens in northern Iraq. On 30 August, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced the deployment of eight Jaguar aircraft to south-east Turkey to reinforce the air element of the deterrent force. These aircraft continue to provide an important contribution. The United States air element was also strengthened at the end of September and at the same time, as part of this overall restructuring process, the coalition ground forces were withdrawn. The continuing presence of British and coalition forces demonstrates our determination that renewed repression will not be tolerated.

Mr. Arnold

Is not the success of Operation Safe Haven and the saving of tens of thousands of civilian Kurdish lives a tribute to the armed forces of this country and especially to the Royal Marines?

Mr. Hamilton

Yes, indeed. I certainly support that point and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making it. Great admiration was shown for the way in which the Marines conducted themselves in northern Iraq and it is a great tribute to the training that they had in Northern Ireland which gave them a unique capability there.

Mr. Corbyn

Can the Minister tell us what knowledge the British armed services in Turkey have of the activities of the Turkish air force in bombing Kurdish villages in Iraq? Is he aware that I visited the village of Xerezok in August? It was recently bombed by the Turkish air force and many innocent civilians were killed as a result. Will he put all the pressure that he can on the Turkish Government to cease their bombardment of innocent Kurdish people living in northern Iraq who have suffered enough in the past years and who are seeking their own peace and self-determination?

Mr. Hamilton

The point must be made that that was action against the Kurdish Workers' Party—the PKK—a Kurdish terrorist organisation which has no support from other Kurdish groups in northern Iraq. Exactly what tactics the Turks are deploying must be a matter for them. However, the fact is that they are reacting against a terrorist organisation. Clearly, we condemn any bombing of civilians and children.