HL Deb 02 February 1995 vol 560 cc1583-5

3.10 p.m.

Lord Hyltonasked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will insist on the following pre-conditions for negotiations with Turkey concerning a customs union with the European Union:

  1. (i) the release of imprisoned MPs;
  2. (ii) full protection for journalists and active members of political parties against murder;
  3. (iii) the ending of the torture of detainees;
  4. (iv) permission for education and news media in the Kurdish language.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, it would not be right to make such preconditions. However, the Turkish Government are well aware of the importance which we and our European partners attach to the improvement in human rights in Turkey. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is raising this issue with his Turkish counterpart today.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am grateful to hear what the noble Lord said about the Secretary of State. But do the Government agree that Turkey is in serious breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights? Furthermore, it has turned down offers of help from the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe with a view to improving human rights. Is it not time and most desirable that both the European Union and NATO should use the leverage available to them to secure those improvements?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is right to draw attention to human rights abuses in Turkey, which are of concern to the Government. Whether or not those are in breach of the convention is obviously a matter for the European Commission and the Court of Human Rights.

I understand that the OSCE parliamentary assembly has offered to send a mission to Turkey. We understand that the Turks wish to accept a mission and we support that. As a general proposition, the Government are concerned about the situation in Turkey. With the European Union, NATO and our European friends and allies, we are drawing our anxieties to the attention of the Turkish Government.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, will the Foreign Secretary be taking up in the discussions with the Turks that he is holding today the destruction of more than 1,500 villages in Turkish Kurdistan and the forcible displacement of 2 million people from their homes by the Turkish armed forces in that region? Does not the Minister believe that the human rights commission, which is now beginning its deliberations in Geneva, should be invited to appoint a special rapporteur on Turkey who could investigate the connection between the war of the Turkish state against the Kurdish people and the assassinations, disappearances, unlawful detentions and persecution of every Kurdish activist in the country?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, we are aware of the scale of the destruction and the terrorism that has been taking place in south-east Turkey. That is at the core of our anxieties about human rights abuse that is taking place in Turkey. We are anxious to put pressure on the Turkish Government, in particular to encourage those who are in favour of internal constitutional reforms in Turkey, which will bring about the kind of changes which we all desire to see. But as part of that process, we are most anxious to ensure that we do not push matters so far that those who hold those opinions lose their positions of power.

Baroness Elles

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the report on the 1,600 missing persons from Cyprus who were taken by the Turkish military authorities? In the discussions on human rights and the relationship between the EU and Turkey, will my right honourable friend raise that matter in order to secure a definite answer from the Turkish Government about the fate of those missing persons?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is aware of those matters, but I shall have to write to the noble Baroness with a precise answer to her question.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, is there not another obstacle to Turkey joining the ranks of, as it were, normal nations which is even more powerful than any that has yet been mentioned; that is, the continued occupation of Northern Cyprus against UN security resolution after resolution and against the opinion of the whole world? That is an occupation which is not recognised by any country. Should not the rectification of that injustice figure high on any list which is put to the Turkish Government by the Secretary of State?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that that matter is high on the Government's agenda. We are working hard to support the United Nations Secretary General's efforts to bring about a solution to the Cyprus problem. That is one of the matters which will, we hope, be raised today with the Turkish Foreign Minister.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, what are the circumstances in which the Secretary of State is seeing the Turkish Foreign Minister? Secondly, will he be applying his time and arguments specifically to the Kurds and the circumstances in which they are denied both the right to speak and use their own language? That restriction would be absolutely intolerable for a Welshman in the United Kingdom.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is meeting the Turkish Foreign Minister today, together with representatives from the French, Italian and German Governments. They are discussing Turkey's relationship with the West. With regard to the use of the Kurdish language, Turkey's position is contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. While the Turkish Government have not subscribed to that convention we urge them to do so. In turn, that would mean that the matters about which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, complains should come to an end.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what position the Government take on the Turkish Government's recent request for a substantial loan from the Council of Europe to build so-called collective villages for Kurdish refugees whose homes have been destroyed deliberately by the Turkish Army? In the circumstances, would it not be right to reject that cynical request? Will the Minister tell the House whether his right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be discussing that with the Turkish Foreign Minister today?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the request to which the noble Baroness refers has been made relatively recently to the social fund of the Council of Europe. I expect that my right honourable friend will be asking his Turkish counterpart for background information about that proposal so that he can decide on its merits.