HL Deb 27 March 1995 vol 562 cc1405-8

2.59 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will ask the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to refer the military operations by Turkey in northern Iraq to the Chairman in Office of the OSCE with a view to laying the matter before the Permanent Committee as a violation of Articles 34 to 37 of the OSCE's Budapest Declaration.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the matter is likely to be discussed within the OSCE later this week. We would expect Turkey to act in accordance with all the commitments of the Budapest Declaration, including those relating to the code of conduct and the human dimension.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Ambassador Audrey Glover has already referred the matter to the chairman in office and that discussion is taking place on how best to proceed? Is he also aware that at the Budapest meeting it was agreed that, where a matter was of sufficient importance, it could be referred to the Committee of Ministers, and should be in this case? Does the Minister recall the dictum of the former Prime Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, that you do not just walk into someone else's country? In view of the fact that the Turks have invaded Iraq with 35,000 troops, jets, tanks and helicopters and are terrorising not only the PKK but also the native Kurdish people of northern Iraq, is this not a matter of sufficient importance to command the attention of the highest levels of the OSCE?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord is right about going into other people's countries. We note the Turkish Government's assurances that their operations are temporary and aimed solely at destroying the PKK's capability to mount attacks against Turkey from northern Iraq. We look forward to the Turks abiding by their undertaking to withdraw at the earliest opportunity.

We have made quite clear our concern that non-combatants in the region, including UN staff and relief workers, should not be affected.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in the Government's own communiqué published by way of Answer to a Written Question in another place recently Her Majesty's Government claimed special credit for the humanitarian issues that were raised at the Budapest conference? In those circumstances, may we have the Government's assurance that they will take the initiative in ensuring, particularly as Turkey is a potential member of the European Union, that the humanitarian objectives and standards (with which Her Majesty's Government have presumably concurred) are observed in both the spirit and the detail?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord is right. The human dimension of the Budapest Declaration owes a great deal to British involvement. That is something of which we can be proud. The noble Lord is also right in saying that there has been a series of serious human rights abuses in Turkey which the Government have regularly drawn to the attention of the Turkish authorities at the highest level, making quite clear our disapproval of those abuses.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, will the Government work through all available channels to achieve a timetable for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from the invaded territory? Will they also ensure that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is able to protect those refugees from Turkey already in that area and ensure that none of them is forcibly repatriated to Turkey?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I can assure the House that we shall do everything that we can to try to ensure that Turkish troops withdraw as soon as possible. Equally, we shall endeavour to do everything that we can to contribute to ensuring that the actions to which the noble Lord refers take place. However, he will appreciate that the area is a long way from here and it is difficult to stand at this Dispatch Box and say that this or that will happen.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, given the record of the Turks in Cyprus and the Government's continued repetition of assurances that they will do their best, and given the fact that in 20 years no solution has been reached, what grounds are there for thinking that the situation will be any different in respect of this latest invasion?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, we have to do our best to try to bring about a successful outcome to this matter. The noble Lord mentioned an example where none of us has been as successful as we would have liked.

However, one has only to look to Northern Ireland to see that if one keeps on trying hard enough one can sometimes make a breakthrough.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, can my noble friend advise the House, or at least this Member of your Lordships' House, exactly what OSCE stands for?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, it is the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, the Turkish invasion seems to have attracted little or no protest from Iraq. Does that not suggest that there may well be some collusion between Turkey and Iraq to attack the Kurdish population in that area on the basis of singling out the PKK for attack by the Turks? Is it not a fact also that it is very likely that thousands of innocent people are being caught up in this pincer movement and it is the Kurdish population as a whole who are bearing the brunt of this action?

Does the Minister agree that the welcome evacuation operation undertaken by the United Nations in securing the release of some 2,000 innocent Kurdish people from that situation ought to be thoroughly welcomed in all free parliaments of the world? Is there any hope that that possibility may be reopened in order to secure the evacuation of further people?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the point that the noble Lord makes about some form of joint operation between Iraq and Turkey has been canvassed in the media. I know of no evidence to support that view. Clearly, we must all welcome the action taken to secure the release of the people affected, to which the noble Lord referred. Let us hope that we shall see the end of this episode, as he said.

Lord Rea

My Lords, can the noble Lord imagine the furore that would have occurred if before the current peace initiative in Northern Ireland the British Army had gone south of the Border to eliminate possible IRA bases there? What, in effect, is the difference between the current situation in Turkey and Iraq and such a hypothetical situation?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, that is a hypothetical question and there is no direct parallel.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree, however, that that question raises the principle of hot pursuit? Do Her Majesty's Government believe that the PKK is a terrorist organisation, and would it not be as well to recognise that fact because so far the questions on this matter seem to have been notably one-sided?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord is right. The PKK is a terrorist organisation. However, the response to the threat posed by an organisation of that kind should be proportionate.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, is it not the case that under Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter no state has a right to enter the territory of its neighbour except as a matter of self-defence or in accordance with a resolution of the Security Council? Pending any further decisions by the OSCE on action that it may take in the future, could it not send a mission to the area, as it did in the case of Chechenia, to establish the facts and report back so that future decisions may be based on sound knowledge of the violations of human rights and the Budapest Declaration which are occurring?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is right. It is important that we take decisions and discuss these matters on the basis of information, which at present is sketchy. Obviously any means of improving our knowledge of these matters will be to everyone's advantage.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, is the Minister saying that, despite our knowledge of the serious violations of human rights in Turkey, we shall permit that corrupt country to join the European Union?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the question of Turkish membership of the European Union is a long way hence.