Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th January 1993.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping , Sherwood 12:00 am, 13th January 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the current position in Armenia; and what further measures he intends to take to relieve the situation.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Armenia is experiencing acute hardship as a result of the collapse of the Soviet system, shortage of natural resources and the confrontation with Azerbaijan. We are urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their differences through the negotiations of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe on Nagorno-Karabakh. The United Kingdom is contributing £450,000 to Nagorno-Karabakh relief programmes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross and is a contributor to the European Community's 36 million ecu loan to help Armenia to buy food and medicines.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping , Sherwood

The Foreign Secretary will know that the Lord Byron school in Leninakhan was gifted by the British Government. It is twinned with the Holgate school in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. The staff, pupils and parents of the latter have collected enormous sums of money and equipment for their friends in Armenia, but the aid is not reaching its destination because lorries are being hijacked. Will the Minister consider ways in which he might complement the excellent work of the people at this school?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

All credit to the pupils of the school who have raised this money. I am afraid that I am not aware of the particular problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers. If he would care to discuss it with me in greater detail I shall see what, if anything, we can do to help.

Photo of Mr Anthony Coombs Mr Anthony Coombs , Wyre Forest

In view of the assistance that the British Government are giving to Armenia, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the continuing six-year war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is a significant source of instability in the region? Does he agree that an important role in any negotiations to end that dispute must be taken by Turkey, which is giving significant assistance to Turkish people in Azerbaijan?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend is quite right: the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh is extremely destabilising for that region. The proper way forward is for everybody to recognise that there must be autonomy, within Azerbaijan, for the peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh, that Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be an independent state and cannot be absorbed into Armenia. The proper way forward is through negotiations designed to achieve autonomy status for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

On the question of Turkey, the Turkish Government do indeed have a prominent role to play in stabilising the situation. I have spoken to the Turkish ambassador and others about this matter; my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has raised it with the Turkish Foreign Minister; and we have had other high-level contacts with the Turkish Government to reinforce the point.