Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 3rd May 1995.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 2:18 pm, 3rd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether UN sanctions against Iraq should remain in force. [20417]

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The United Nations Security Council can modify sanctions against Iraq only when it is satisfied that Iraq has complied with the relevant United Nations resolutions. The Iraqi Government know what they have to do. We look to them for early action. We are deeply concerned about the plight of the Iraqi people. Working closely with the United States and Argentina, and in response to concern expressed in several quarters in the House, we have secured the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution No. 986. That would allow Iraq to export substantial quantities of oil in return for aid. We look to the Iraqi Government to accept the resolution and thereby to help to alleviate the suffering of their own people, for which they are so clearly responsible.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Iraq's failure fully to comply with United Nations resolution No. 687 on co-operation in relation to weapons of mass destruction and on peaceful intent, together with human rights violations and the failure to agree on small sales of oil to give humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, mean that the Government should do their utmost to persuade the international community to retain sanctions?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That is the position at the moment. My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the outstanding points. With regard to weapons of mass destruction, I draw particular attention to biological weapons, on which much remains to be done, and to possible nuclear research programmes.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that Turkey does not appear to have responded to the suggestion by many informed observers that there has been some sort of understanding or agreement between Turkey and Iraq over the recent incursion by Turkey into northern Iraq, which is said to be aimed not only against terrorism but at the oil facilities there? Does not the absence of an explanation by Turkey or Iraq suggest that more care should be taken before there is any relief of the present sanctions? What information does the Foreign Office have about that?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman has been ingenious in bringing that subject into the scope of the question. We have spoken to the Turks expressing our concern about their incursion into Iraq. Turkey has explained the reasons, which have nothing to do with sanctions against Iraq or oil facilities but are concerned with its struggle against the PKK in south-eastern Turkey. Turkey has begun to withdraw and I hope that that withdrawal will be completed as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

I accept the Foreign Secretary's description of current events in Iraq, but will he bear in mind what the UN Secretary-General wrote in his position paper presented to the Security Council in early January? He said that the object of sanctions was not to punish or … exact retribution", and that they raised the difficult question whether they were a legitimate means of exerting pressure on political leaders whose behaviour is unlikely to be affected by the plight of their subjects. Surely that is the dilemma that the Government face.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That is indeed the dilemma, which is why we have acted to find a sensible way through it and to show again, more comprehensively—more generously, one could say—that the Security Council is willing to allow Iraq to sell oil even under its present Government, provided that the proceeds are used partly for compensation and partly to feed the Iraqi people and to supply them with drugs and medicine, and not for other purposes. That seems a perfectly sensible way through.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be no question of lifting the sanctions on Iraq until it has complied with all United Nations resolutions? I refer in particular to the resolution relating to the 625 Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons still held in Iraqi prisons after all these years. What progress is being made in that regard?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Not enough. My hon. Friend has taken a keen personal interest in the problem for many years, and she is right that any relaxation of the import embargo will depend on the Iraqi Government's complying with all the resolutions, including those concerning the Kuwaiti detainees still unaccounted for.