Kurdish Refugees

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 12:00 am, 2nd July 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the assistance given by his Department to Kurdish refugees.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

The initial deployment of RAF Hercules and Chinooks played a major part in getting vital supplies to the refugees in their desperate plight. That assistance was then backed up by 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, who helped ensure the safe return of refugees from the mountains. Throughout, they have worked closely with the other coalition forces and the aid agencies in this remarkable achievement. There are at present about 1,200 United Kingdom personnel in northern Iraq and nearby in Turkey, providing reassurance to the Kurds. We are consulting our allies on a suitable security presence in the area to underline our continuing interest in preventing a recurrence of the previous persecution.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

The Kurds of Iraq feel that they are being left unprotected. British troops may pull out too early. What is to be done about assisting the United Nations to pick up the role that allied troops have been playing, so that the United Nations can deploy the necessary forces and resources? Will the British Government see that the United Nations is helped in that way?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

Many of the Kurds who have expressed such concern are alive only because of the action that saved the lives of hundreds of thousands. To my personal knowledge and from observation, those people would be dead if Operation Haven had not been launched. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the answer in which I said that we would consult our allies about a suitable security presence in the area. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has also spelt out our criteria, which we expect to see established.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Windsor and Maidenhead

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to allow troops to remain there until the United Nations has a force that is capable of guarding the secure areas where Kurdish refugees are staying?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

We certainly look for a significant presence by the United Nations, but we would not rely on that alone. We are considering in what ways we can back that with a security presence in the area and effective warnings to Iraq that any renewed repression would meet the severest response. We want to see a continuing deterrent military presence in the region to back those warnings, and the maintenance of sanctions against Iraq. That is the strategy which was spelt out by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and it has wide support among our allies.

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith

As Turkey wishes to join the European Community, will the Secretary of State, when he next meets his counterparts in Turkey, advise the Turkish Government that it would be helpful if the Kurds in Turkey were not persecuted, as they are at the moment?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Defence

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that all the relief efforts, which have resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of lives, owe a great deal to the support and help that we have had from the Turkish Government in connection with our bases. It would not have been possible to mount the rescue operation without the active support of the Turkish Government, to whom I pay tribute. That co-operation was given at a time when Turkish policemen and others were being shot by Kurdish terrorists.