HL Deb 12 July 1993 vol 548 cc6-8

2.50 p.m.

Lord Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

In the light of their policy of mediation, in conjunction with the United Nations, in the former Yugoslavia, why they do not seek to intervene in a similar fashion to prevent the destruction of the Kurdish population of Iraq.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, the two situations require different responses. Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, Iraq is called upon to cease its repression of its civilian population. The air exclusion zone is in force north of the 36th parallel in support of the Resolution and to protect the people of Northern Iraq. We continue to take every opportunity to remind the Iraqi regime of its obligations.

Lord Leigh

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her Answer. Are the Government aware that over half of Saddam Hussein's armed forces are at present camped along the border with Kurdistan with the avowed intention of annihilating the whole Kurdish race, which is almost akin to genocide?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I should not care to estimate what proportion of Saddarn Hussein's forces are in the north of the country. We are well aware of the manoeuvres that take place in the north and that Iraq is under no illusions that the United Nations Security Council intends to ensure that Iraq fulfils its obligations. We certainly believe that flagrant defiance of the UN's authority across the board by Iraq may cause us to have to take further action, but we are in no way unaware of what is going on.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness has noticed the proposal that the blockade on Iraq should be lifted in respect of the Kurdish-controlled areas and whether she will seek to raise that matter in the Security Council. Has she also observed that there have recently been meetings at Foreign Minister level between Teheran, Damascus and Ankara with a view to concerting policies on the Kurds, and that those meetings have been followed by increased military activity against the Kurdish populations of Turkey and Iran as well as of Iraq? What steps do Her Majesty's Government think it appropriate to take in the United Nations to prevent the complete destruction of the Kurds as a people in all those states?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I think it very important that the discussions and negotiations which restarted only on 7th July to seek to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people, which the regime there could do by agreeing to implement Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712, should be a success. We cannot help on the matter which the noble Lord raised until we have some progress on Resolutions 706 and 712. However, we should never forget that the United Kingdom has contributed over £60 million-worth of humanitarian aid for Iraq, most of which has gone to the Kurds, and that we continue to help.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm, first, that the flights over Northern Iraq from Turkey will continue to protect the Kurds? Secondly, what is the latest situation on the aid for the Kurdish people which is going through Baghdad and is destined for Erbil and beyond but which is not reaching them? Thirdly, will she give further consideration to the 36th parallel being moved to the 35th parallel as the people who live between those two parallels are 90 per cent. Kurdish?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend to try to help the Kurdish people. As far as we are concerned, the flights from Turkey which cover the no-fly zone will continue. I gather that the aid that passes through Baghdad is not the major part of the aid, and that the major part still reaches the Kurdish people by other routes. A change from the 36th to the 35th parallel would require a further Resolution by the Security Council.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House precisely what military support is being provided by the allies to protect the safe havens in Northern Iraq? Does she accept that any further military action against Iraq—against Saddam Hussein—should be under the auspices of the UN Security Council?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, in respect of the noble Baroness's second question, perhaps I may advise her that the ministerial trilateral of the United States, the United Kingdom and France which met in Tokyo on 8th July, concluded that we should not rule out military action if Iraq continues to defy the inspectors. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness's right honourable friend the Shadow Foreign Secretary say on the radio this morning that Her Majesty's Opposition support the view that was taken in Tokyo by the UK, the US and France. Perhaps I may advise her further that, yes, there is protection of the people in the north, but it is by UN guards. That is what was agreed by the Security Council.