HC Deb 20 November 2003 vol 413 cc953-64 12.31 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short statement in respect of the bomb blasts in Istanbul this morning. The House will, I am sure, understand that as information is coming in all the time, it has not been possible to make copies of the statement for distribution to hon. Members in the usual way. Copies will be placed in the Vote Office as soon as possible.

There were a series of explosions this morning in Istanbul, one of which was targeted at the headquarters of the HSBC bank and another at the British consulate general building. It is too early to establish all the details, but these are clearly appalling acts of terrorism. It is sadly already clear that a number of British, Turkish and other people have been killed in the explosions. Latest reports are that 17 have died and that more than 300 have been injured. A number of members of the British consulate general staff are still unaccounted for and, in addition, a number are injured. We are obviously working very hard to establish the full scale of the tragedy to British consulate general staff, staff of HSBC and all others caught up in it. I know that I speak for the whole House in my utter condemnation of these atrocities and in expressing my condolences to the families of those killed and sympathy to those who have been injured.

I spoke about an hour ago to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul. I expressed to him my sincere condolences to the Turkish Government and people for the Turkish casualties, and stressed our solidarity with Turkey and the Turkish authorities. I also spoke to Peter Westmacott, our ambassador in Ankara, who is travelling right now to Istanbul in the company of the Turkish Interior Minister, Mr. Aksu. The Foreign Office will this afternoon be sending out a consular rapid deployment team to join staff travelling there from the embassy in Ankara. We have opened emergency units in London to co-ordinate our response.

Following the horrific attacks on synagogues in Istanbul last Saturday, which killed people of both the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith, we had already revised our travel advice to take account of those attacks and to warn of a significant threat from terrorism. We are revising the travel advice again in the light of these explosions to warn against all but the most essential travel to Istanbul. Although it is too early to say precisely who was behind the explosions, they have every hallmark of the cowardly and indiscriminate acts of terrorism of al-Qaeda and its associates.

These attacks are an affront to democracy and to the entire civilised world. They are an affront to people of every faith and religion in the world. We shall stand united with the international community in the fight against this appalling global terrorism.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

I thank the Foreign Secretary not only for his statement but for the promptness with which he has made it to the House. We all share the feelings of horror, revulsion and condemnation of these murderous attacks on innocent people. At this tragic time, our first thoughts and our prayers must be with the bereaved and the injured. Our hearts go out to them.

I realise that information is still coming in. The latest information that I had before I came into the Chamber was that the figures are now 25 dead and 390 injured. That indicates the scale of these atrocities.

I extend our deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Turkey. They are a strong and valued ally of ours in NATO. We have a warm relationship with them. Like us, they are no strangers to terrorism. At this difficult time for them we extend to them our support and, I hope, our aid. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's announcement that a consular rapid deployment team is being sent to Turkey today.

The Foreign Secretary has given us all the details of this outrage that are currently available. We understand why he cannot say more at this stage. There are, however, a number of brief questions that I feel I must raise.

Was there pre-warning of these vicious terrorist acts? Given that earlier this year there had been apparent terrorist attacks on both the British consulate and on HSBC branches in Istanbul on 3 April and 31 May respectively, what extra precautions had been taken to heighten levels of security at both of the locations that were attacked so viciously this morning? Is there any sign that today's outrage was carried out by the same group, the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigades, which claimed responsibility for the attacks on the synagogues on 15 November, and for the attack on the United Nations in Iraq in August? What links does this group have with al-Qaeda? Does the Foreign Secretary attach any significance to the British character of both of today's targets? Will he be issuing further advice on security and travel not only in Turkey but wider afield, and what will be the nature of this advice?

Today has tragically shown once again that nowhere in the world is immune from the poison of international terrorism. As we in this country have learned over many years, we must be vigilant and we must take precautions. We must never present the soft targets upon which terrorism thrives. However, terrorism is not just about the terrible acts of violence such as we have seen today; it is about the fear that it seeks to create. If we yield to that fear, the terrorist wins. We must never let terrorism or its threat deter us from going about our business or from doing what is right. The fight against terrorism is a fight that we can never give up. Terrorism may wound us; it can never defeat us.

Mr. Straw

I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much for those words. I share with him all his sentiments. It is important for us to remind ourselves, if we needed any reminding, as he has said, that Turkey is and has been a strong and important ally of ours in NATO since its inception. It has been allied with us as part of our common defence here in the United Kingdom. In addition to that, it is now an applicant member of the European Union, and we have been giving Turkey every assistance in joining the EU as quickly as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of specific questions. Was there any pre-warning of the terrorist attack? The answer is no. We keep the issue of travel advice under close review. Since the Bali atrocity in October last year, we significantly upgraded the way in which intelligence is handled within the system and the way in which judgments are made on that, which in turn may feed their way into published travel advice. As I have already indicated, the travel advice was changed earlier this week in response to the terrorist bombings at the synagogues last Saturday.

The right hon. Gentleman asks me whether security at the consulate general and other buildings had been reviewed and strengthened, given the earlier attacks. The answer to that is yes. When I spoke to Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Foreign Minister, earlier today, he said to me—I think, as it was a very poor telephone line—that Turkish security personnel had been able to intercept the car trying to drive in to the main compound of the consulate general, the result of which may have been fewer injuries and deaths than would otherwise have occurred. That, however, is subject to the caveat I have just entered.

The right hon. Gentleman asks whether there are any indications that the same group carried out this morning's attack as carried out the atrocities on Saturday. I have no specific information, but I would be surprised if there were no, or no substantial, links with that group.

The right hon. Gentleman's final question was whether, given the global nature of terrorism, we would give further advice to people thinking not only of travelling to or staying in Turkey, but wider afield. The answer to that is yes. When we deem it necessary to change travel advice in respect of one country because of specific information relating to that country, we always also make judgments on whether to widen the advice, as we have in respect of many parts of the middle east, so that people are alert to the wider implications of a specific threat.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I join in the expressions of sympathy to those who have been injured and the families of those who have been killed, whatever their nationality. I echo the support for the Government of Turkey under Mr. Ertegun, who have made so much progress in the brief period since they took office.

Are not these events a harsh and brutal reminder not only that indiscriminate violence is the mark of the terrorist, but that those who represent British interests abroad are now in the front line? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that if these events are claimed to be part of a jihad, it is a curious jihad, which targets Muslims as willingly and indiscriminately as those of any other religion? The whole House expected the Foreign Secretary to say that the United Kingdom would not be deflected from a determination to combat terrorism, but does he agree that such a determination ought to be matched with prudence—with a commitment to a continuing review of security and a further commitment to ensure that those who represent our interests abroad are not put at unnecessary risk?

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his comments and I entirely support what he said in respect of our admiration for the people of Turkey and our backing for Turkey generally as well as in this time of very great need.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked was it not now the case that those who represent British interests abroad are in the front line of threats or the reality of terrorism. My response to him is to say that everybody, of any nationality and of any faith, is in the front line of acts of terrorism. That is underlined by his point that many acts of terrorism have taken place in Muslim countries or in African countries where the overwhelming proportion of casualties have been Muslims or people of African origin, not westerners. It is worth remembering that many Muslims died in the worst terrorist atrocity of all, on 11 September 2001, and that in the appalling atrocities that took place on 7 August 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam more than 200 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured, of whom the overwhelming proportion were individuals of African and Muslim origin, not of western origin.

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

We obviously have a special responsibility for our diplomatic personnel overseas. Can my right hon. Friend say what the position is of our distinguished consul general, Roger Short, in Istanbul? As my right hon. Friend rightly said, we again have a terrorist outrage, almost certainly by Islamic militants, and the majority of the victims are Muslim. Surely the message is clear. We and the Muslim world share a common enemy and the intelligence should flow properly and co-operatively between us. Will the Secretary of State therefore encourage religious leaders in this country and abroad to take that message and to co-operate as fully and as widely as they can against that common scourge and enemy?

Mr. Straw

On my right hon. Friend's first point, he will understand that we cannot publish casualty lists until next of kin have been informed. On his main point, of course I encourage religious leaders publicly to condemn such outrages. After the outrage in Riyadh not so long ago, I was struck that one of the senior imam in the main mosque in Mecca was the first to issue a total and unqualified condemnation of acts of terrorism and to draw attention to the fact that they have nothing whatever to do with the practice of Islam.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

Does the Foreign Secretary share my view that it is hard for us to understand what it is like for a country that is surrounded by neighbours which are, at best, not always friendly, and often openly hostile? Does he agree that the steadfastness of the Turkish Government and people as a NATO ally should be rewarded with our assurance of assistance and encouragement of the Turkish people to become more closely involved with their European neighbours?

Mr. Straw

I entirely applaud what the hon. Gentleman says and share his sentiments.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton)

May I associate myself with the Foreign Secretary's comments, especially in sending condolences to the families of people in the consulate who died in the atrocious attack? I was there with colleagues two weeks ago and recall that the consulate is in the middle of a general shopping area where ordinary people would have been going about their ordinary daily lives. Is there anything the Foreign Secretary can do to ensure that such atrocious attacks do not deter good, ordinary people from going about their normal duties? The terrorists must not be seen to have won.

Mr. Straw

I agree with my hon. Friend.

In response to an earlier question on whether we will provide assistance to the Turkish authorities, we stand ready to provide any assistance we can. In addition to the rapid deployment team from the Foreign Office, a team from the Metropolitan Police Service will also fly out on the same aeroplane this afternoon.

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)

Given the clear threat warning to British interests represented by the synagogue attacks in Istanbul last Saturday, was a specific request made to the Turkish authorities for increased security for the British consulate in Istanbul earlier this week? If so, what was their response?

Mr. Straw

I cannot say at this juncture whether specific requests were made, but we may be able to provide the information in due course.

Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East)

Two weeks ago, I was also at the consulate general in Istanbul with colleagues. One thing that struck me was the very warm relationship between Jewish Turks and the majority Muslim Turks, which was severely damaged by the bombing of the synagogue at the weekend. Has my right hon. Friend had the chance to speak to Roger Short, the consul general, or Jim Begbie, the deputy head of mission, this morning? Will this terrorist outrage have an effect on the policies of the consulate general and the Foreign Office of employing as many locally engaged staff as possible? Many of them will have been injured; I hope none have been killed.

Mr. Straw

For reasons which I hope are, sadly, all too obvious, it has not been possible to speak to any consulate staff in Istanbul. I have, however, spoken to our ambassador, Peter Westmacott, who is on his way there.

Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

The whole House will echo the sincerity of the condolences that the Foreign Secretary expressed today. Will he take this opportunity to reinforce the Government's support for Turkish entry into the European Union, as a longstanding democracy? As the Defence Secretary is by his side, will he pay tribute to the role of our NATO allies, in particular the superb Turkish armed forces in their peacekeeping role with NATO and in other parts of the world?

Mr. Straw

I am delighted to associate myself with the hon. Gentleman's remarks, as is my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Muslim leaders in my constituency to whom I spoke this morning share the sense of bereavement, loss and sorrow that is felt in this House for those who have been killed and injured. The same must go for every Muslim-faith community throughout the land. Does my right hon. Friend recall the words of Winston Churchill in a trans-Atlantic dialogue of 1942 about Nazi Germany: What kind of people do they think we are? What kind of people do the terrorists think that we and the international community are? Can this House and the international community send out the message that there is no political gain from mass destruction other than death and destruction?

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right. This evil of terrorism is something that we simply have to fight and defeat. There is no alternative. This is a global threat and a global challenge. The division is not between Islam and Christianity or any one religion and another. I know that the feelings of my many thousands of Muslim constituents about such atrocities are exactly the same as those of my non-Muslim constituents. We are part of one world—one civilisation—and the divide is between those who support the values of civilisation, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and the other world religions, and those who wish to destroy the values of civilisation.

Angus Robertson (Moray)

On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I associate myself entirely with the condolences offered by the Foreign Secretary and with his statement. It is self-evident that terrorism shows no respect for borders. Bearing that in mind, will the Foreign Secretary commit himself further than the very welcome bilateral measures that he announced, and say that the United Kingdom will also be working with partners that are EU members and accession countries to counter the threat of terrorism?

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for associating his party and Plaid Cymru with what has been said in the House. We always work closely with our EU and accession partners to counter terrorism. The work of the international community as a whole has been significantly upgraded following the 11 September atrocity and the passage of Security Council resolution 1373.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

I echo the Foreign Secretary's condemnation of the weekend's appalling attacks on the synagogues and today's outrage, as well as his condolences to the victims. As he says, we do not yet know who was responsible for those outrages. If it turns out to be al-Qaeda, or whoever else, as chair of the British-Palestine all-party group in this Parliament I must point out that such actions cannot claim in any way to advance the Palestinian cause—if that is claimed. Indeed, they are as much an insult to the Palestinian people and their quest for freedom as an insult to the rest of the world.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who speaks with great authority on the matter, as chairman of the all-party group on Palestine.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an essential part of the war against terrorism and that it should be put at the top of the political agenda? Will he encourage President Bush to do that in America?

Mr. Straw

Look, resolution of a number of conflicts is at the top of the political agenda and right at the top is that of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, President Bush and our Prime Minister have been talking about that at the press conference that is coinciding with this statement. I have the same view as the hon. Gentleman about the importance of resolving the middle east crisis, but there is no justification or excuse for that sort of terrorism. It is the rejectionist terrorists working from the occupied territories into Israel and elsewhere who are continually setting back the cause of peace in the middle east, undermining not only the prospects for peace among the Israelis and the west but for a peaceful future for their own people, the Palestinians.

Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South)

Given that this was a direct attack on British interests and in a sense on British territory, has my right hon. Friend, even at this early stage, been able to assess the implications for homeland security?

Mr. Straw

It will come as no surprise to the House to learn that following the attack a series of meetings and arrangements were put into place, including a meeting of Cobra in the Cabinet Office briefing room, to assess the implications for security at our posts abroad and here at home.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

The Foreign Secretary will clearly be reviewing security at all posts. Does he agree that it is an essential principle that it is desirable to keep posts open if at all possible? It may be necessary to reduce the number of staff or to evacuate families, but he will surely be assigning close protection teams where there are high risks. Does he agree that Great Britain in general and the Foreign Service in particular gained great credit for remaining open in such places as Beirut and Algiers in extremely difficult circumstances and that that should be the principle that should continue to operate?

Mr. Straw

I share the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view. I pay tribute to the bravery, for that is what it is, of many of our staff and their families in the foreign service. On Remembrance day, on 11 November at 11 am, we always have a service in the Foreign Office in remembrance of the staff who have been killed in service, as we did on Tuesday week. That is a reminder that it is our military that bear the overwhelming brunt of these sacrifices, but that our own staff and their families are also there in the front line. My first responsibility has to be for the safety of our staff and our families. Subject to that, I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Wherever I have been faced with decisions about whether wholly to evacuate a post or simply to draw down staff and keep a basic service going, in consultation with the staff on the ground, I have always sought to keep our posts open—obviously, providing an appropriate level of protection.

That is of profound importance in continuing to represent British interests and diplomacy, but also in showing that we are not going to be defeated by terrorism.

Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South)

I join in expressing my sympathy to the families of those who were murdered and injured in the attacks today. In looking at the background to those atrocities, can the Foreign Secretary speculate on how relevant it may be that Turkey joined with the United States after 9/11 in its war against terror, that Turkey has stood firm with all those countries in the war against terror, and that Turkey stands within the Islamic world as a model—a country that chooses to be modern, democratic and secular, while keeping true to individual faiths? When he rightly talks about standing in solidarity with Turkey, would not one of the best expressions of that solidarity be to help to facilitate the passage of Turkey into the European Union?

Mr. Straw

I agree with the sentiments that my hon. Friend has expressed. Although Turkey has had secular Governments following the major change by Ataturk, until recently the significance of the most recent election was that by a large majority the Turkish people decided to choose an explicitly Islamic party—no different from Christian Democrat parties elsewhere in Europe, but an Islamic party with a forward and western-looking aspect. That may anger the terrorists even more.

We have done a great deal to encourage Turkey's entry into the European Union. We have always been in the vanguard of those calling for Turkey's membership and assisting that country, and we shall continue to be there.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Members of the Constitutional Affairs Committee who visited the British-based and locally engaged entry clearance staff at the consulate general two weeks ago will be waiting anxiously for news of them. Our hearts go out to their families. Does the Foreign Secretary acknowledge that the problem and the impact may have been greater because while the main consulate building is being restored and is therefore empty, staff have had to be distributed to buildings on the periphery of the site? Those who guard those buildings and the entrance to the site may well have borne the brunt of the atrocious attack.

Mr. Straw

Of course I understand that. Inquiries are continuing, but the right hon. Gentleman will know from his visit that substantial works were taking place on the main part of the site and that some accommodation was being used at the front.

Earlier, I was asked whether we were taking steps physically to strengthen security. We are doing that, but there is always a period when works have to be carried out; there is no alternative to that.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

May I associate myself with all the condolences that have been expressed? Does the Foreign Secretary recall the statement by the Saudi billionaire terrorist bin Laden that he was organising a fight against a Zionist crusader alliance and its international allies? Does he agree that that means that there is not one target of bin Laden's campaign, but that it is directed against hundreds of millions of people around the world and that we can expect far more of that until his organisation is crushed and eliminated?

Mr. Straw

I am afraid that I recall all too many vile utterances from Osama bin Laden or those claiming to speak on his behalf. The threat will continue until it is defeated. As with Nazism, we can do only one thing: work to defeat it.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

In associating ourselves with the Foreign Secretary's expression of heartfelt condolence, is not it also incumbent on us to take immediate external and internal action? As external action, we should ensure the primacy of NATO for Turkey's security. There are no divisions on the continent on the security of the people of Europe from the Bosphorus to the North sea. On internal action, can we candidly continue an open-door policy for admission into this country, especially for individuals who come from areas of known terrorist activity and great political disturbance?

Mr. Straw

Our commitment to NATO as the prime military alliance to guarantee the security of this country and Europe is well known and total. I do not believe that it is appropriate to hold a debate on the hon. Gentleman's second point now. I take every care with our border controls, but the terrorists sadly show some terrible and appalling skills.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

We all empathise with the terrible agony of those who have been bereaved today and those whose families have been injured. Al-Qaeda appears to have changed its policy. What is the Foreign Secretary's preliminary analysis of what is happening? Although there have been British victims in the twin towers and elsewhere, why does he believe that al-Qaeda has directly targeted British interests for the first time, and why today?

Mr. Straw

It is far too early to say. Of course, much analysis of the bombings will be undertaken, but if one examines the long list of terrorist atrocities in the past five years, one realises that the sites range from Bali, Riyadh, Morocco through Dar es Salaam and Kenya to ships on the high seas and New York and Washington, and the whole of humanity, indiscriminately, is the victim of terrorism.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)

May I add my voice to those of colleagues in all parties in condemning the appalling acts of barbarism and extending my sympathies to the families of the bereaved and the injured? As the Foreign Secretary knows, a young woman in my constituency lost her life in the Bali bombing. In common with other families today, the incident will be brought into sharp relief. Can we ensure that we have learned the lessons from handling the Bali bombing and that appropriate support and help is available to families and relatives in this country as well as abroad?

Mr. Straw

I do indeed remember the hon. Lady's constituent who died. I should like to underline my condolences to her family. There were lessons to be learned from Bali. It is worth remembering that we received no intelligence that could have warned us of the atrocity. I am absolutely clear about that. However, I accepted in the House that there were lessons to be learned from the way in which we handled the aftermath of the tragedy. I believe that we have learned them and that they are already being applied.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

The Foreign Secretary is absolutely right when he says that all of us who detest terrorism are on the front line. Last year, 991,000 British citizens visited Turkey and it is right that the travel advice has now been upgraded. Britain is the fifth largest investor in Turkey with more than 330 companies there. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that those companies get extra guidance about how to upgrade security to protect their workers, from wherever they come?

Mr. Straw

We provide as much guidance as we can to British interests and companies abroad, and we shall continue to do that. Of course I accept the importance of our commercial and economic relationship as well as the human relationship.

Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

These were despicable terrorist attacks against innocent people. What are the Government doing actively to support intelligence sharing with the Turkish authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent further outrages in Turkey?

Mr. Straw

There is long-standing, good co-operation between our intelligence services and the security authorities in Turkey, and I am sure that that will continue.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell)

When the Foreign Secretary rightly on behalf of the House again expresses condolences to the Turkish Government, will he especially underline our deep appreciation of Turkey's work in Iraq in reconstruction and security? That is in marked contrast to the foot-dragging of some other countries, which are allegedly our allies.

Mr. Straw

This is another grim day for Turkey, but I hope that those who are aware of our proceedings—as many hundreds of thousands are in Turkey—will be heartened by the depth of the condolences that have been expressed in the House for that country and its people, and the genuine feeling of solidarity with Turkey, appreciation for its actions over many decades and strong support for its application to join the European Union.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that although only a small number of terrorists were involved in the long list of atrocities, even including 11 September, they appear to share one belief: that, as a result of sacrificing their lives, they will go to paradise? Given his remarks about that attitude being a perversion of Islam, has not the time come, not for the ordinary, moderate Muslims in Britain—we know where they stand—but for the leaders of the Muslim community, to make their voice heard loudly to try to persuade people that such activity leads the perpetrators not to paradise but to an entirely different place?

Mr. Straw

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. Everyone, especially those in a position of leadership, has a clear responsibility to express condemnation of what has happened. Leaders have a clear responsibility to provide leadership—theological leadership, if they are theological figures—and to point out that there is a difference between good and evil, and this is evil.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh)

I echo the condolences that the Foreign Secretary has offered so eloquently.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly reminded us all that Turkey is a NATO member, and one that has suffered two atrocities in a relatively short time. Have the Turkish Government yet made any formal request to NATO for assistance, whether under article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty or through some other mechanism? If it were to do so, would it not be important for the whole alliance to demonstrate its solidarity with the Turks by responding sympathetically?

Mr. Straw

There has been no specific request under article 5, for reasons that the hon. Gentleman will probably understand, but we are ready to provide whatever assistance we can. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already made clear that that includes whatever military assistance we can give the Turkish authorities.

Patrick Mercer (Newark)

May I associate myself with the Foreign Secretary's comments, especially his robust observations about the continuing war on terrorism?

Last week we were told, in the context of homeland security, that the level of the state of alert had been raised. We were told, via a BBC news programme rather than by the Government, that there was a distinct threat to British possessions overseas. May I entreat the Foreign Secretary, and indeed the Home Secretary, to treat us more responsibly, and to let the British population know the position so that we can be more alert and act as our own intelligence officers?

Mr. Straw

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Obviously it is crucial, when we are advising British citizens who are going abroad and those representing British interests abroad, that we make our assessment of the nature of the threat explicit. There is a separate discussion to be had about how specific we should be in respect of an assessment of the threat in the United Kingdom. I support the position of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I shall be happy to relay the hon. Gentleman's remarks to him.

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton)

I echo the condolences, and also the strong messages of support for the Turkish Government.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the tough message delivered by President Bush in London yesterday? He said that if we were to defeat international terrorism, we must shake off "decades of failed policy" in the middle east when we tolerated oppression in return for stability.

Mr. Straw

It was a good speech, and I thought that particular passage excellent. President Bush has underlined the message from the Arab world itself. As Members may know, two important reports produced by Arab intellectuals, funded by the United Nations Development Programme, have said that the Arab world can no longer use as a crutch the idea that it is a victim of outside oppression, or the idea that people from the Arab world and the Islamic faith are incapable of prosperity and democracy. Those ideas, they say, are an affront to their own people. President Bush echoed a demand that is increasingly emanating from the Arab world itself.

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