HL Deb 09 June 1994 vol 555 cc1315-7

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are still insisting that Saddam Hussein implements UN Security Council Resolution 688 and removes the economic blockade on the Kurdish region before they consider recommending an easing of the sanctions on Iraq.

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

My Lords, yes. The internal economic blockade imposed by the Iraqi regime against the Kurdish region is in direct contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688. We continue to maintain pressure on Iraq to observe this and other resolutions. The UN Security Council also took account of Iraq's failure to observe UNSCR 688 when it decided on 17th May that there were no grounds for lifting sanctions.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that some representatives at the United Nations are being seduced by the Iraqi representative into lowering their guard on UN Resolution 688? Can she confirm that the British Government are not and never will be among them, and that she in particular is not easily seduced?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, if certain nations are seeking to weaken their stance on Security Council Resolution 688 they are deeply misguided to say the least. Britain and every Minister in this Government will maintain our support for the people of Iraq. That means maintaining sanctions under Resolution 688 for so long as they are needed. We do not wish to see them lifted unless and until we are confident that Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to his neighbours and his people.

Lord Merlyn-Rees

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government satisfied with the way in which our Turkish allies in NATO treat the Kurds?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, there are many difficulties. In fact the Turks have helped the Kurdish people a great deal, particularly with the supply of goods. It becomes difficult if, from time to time, other nations take sides among the different Kurdish groups. On the whole the Turkish people and the Turkish Government have been helpful.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Kurdish people of northern Iraq have suffered very severely in the past four or five years not only from the UN sanctions against Iraq but also from the internal sanctions which Saddam Hussein has imposed upon them? Does she further agree that that hardship has probably contributed to the recent troubles which have led to bloodshed between one group and another? Do the Government feel that they have some responsibility to assist the Kurdish people in these very difficult times?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we continue to assist the Kurdish people. However, the greatest help to the Kurdish people would be if Saddam Hussein complied with Security Council Resolutions, 706 and 712. It is quite clear when there has been intra-Kurdish fighting in the north that the situation would be tense and in fact give further excuses for action perhaps by Saddam Hussein. I am glad to say that Jalal Talabani and the KDP leader Massoud Barzani have now held peace talks. They are making steady progress and, although then; are isolated breaches of the; ceasefire, I believe that a lasting agreement can be achieved and maintained. That may mean that in at least the Kurdish community a normal political life will be resumed. But we shall go on helping the Kurdish people.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that while we hoped that she might have been less qualified in her denunciation of the Turkish actions vis-à-vis the Kurds—her Answer was very disappoint-ing—we support her fully in relation to the maintenance of sanctions so far as Iraq is concerned? Does she agree that any relaxation urged from any source within the United Nations would destroy all hope of Iraqi compliance with those United Nations resolutions which demand a definitive renunciation of the claims of Iraq to Kuwait, an audit of those Kuwaitis who disappeared during the occupation, an end to the persecution of Kurds and Shi'ites of the southern marshes and the abandonment of terrorism overseas? That would be a very high price to pay, would it not?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord is disappointed with my answer. The point is that the Turkish Government have in general been extremely helpful. However, there has been some difficulty during the inter-Kurdish fighting in the north through support by some Turkish factions for one side. The noble Lord's point in regard to any possible relaxation in sanctions is well made. We are aware of some contacts between Iraq and a variety of governments. But the British Government are firmly committed to keeping up the pressure on Iraq. We do not believe that now is the right time to consider a more positive international position vis-à-vis Iraq—and I am glad that the noble Lord agrees with us on that. The co-operation of Iraq is achieved only as a result of strong international pressure, and the nations who stood together at the time when Kuwait was invaded should stand together now and wait until there is real improvement before consideration is given to lifting sanctions.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, will the noble Baroness say what it is that prevents the supplies, which are badly needed by the Kurds and should reach them from Baghdad, from being brought in via Turkey?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, it is Saddam Hussein who prevents the supply of the goods because he refuses to comply with Resolutions 706 and 712. There is no difficulty about bringing in food, humanitarian supplies, medicines and the other matters which are needed not only by the Kurdish people but by all Iraqi people. The only prevention is Saddam Hussein. Some goods do go in via Turkey but one cannot expect to supply the whole nation through Turkey.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, is the Minister aware how grateful the Kurdish people are to Britain, we being the leading supporter, of all 12 European nations, of aid to Iraq and the Kurdish people?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for those remarks. In return, perhaps I can say that the Kurdish people are doubly grateful to him for the way in which he has worked with the various Kurdish groups to make sure that the whole world knows of the deprivations that they still suffer as a result of Saddam Hussein's actions. Working for them and with them is the best way of helping them and we are grateful to my noble friend.

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