Iraqi Elections

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th February 2018.

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Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke 12:00 am, 20th February 2018

Whether the Government plan to send observers to the elections in Iraq scheduled for May 2018.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

What steps the Government are taking to encourage dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I was able to meet with both Prime Minister Abadi and Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Munich at the weekend, when on behalf of the UK I encouraged the continuing dialogue recently begun between them individually, which is essential to the long-term stability of Iraq. We have no current plans for observers from the UK to attend May’s elections, but we are working with others to ensure efficient and effective monitoring.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

Will British diplomats study the Federal Government’s progress in implementing the Iraqi constitution, especially in disputed areas like Kirkuk, where there have been reports of murder, looting and expropriation, and where the autonomy promised under the Iraqi constitution is under threat?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

There is no doubt that both sides see the opportunity under the constitution to ensure that the relationships between them are strong and good. There has been a great deal of conciliation in an area that could be one of much greater conflict, and the UK is encouraging that dialogue to minimise the risk of the issues that my hon. Friend raises.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

Will my right hon. Friend accept the Foreign Affairs Committee’s observation that many Kurds feel imprisoned in a country they see as not implementing the commitment to equality for them? Does he also agree that the five month-long blockade of international flights to and from Kurdistan has been a needless outrage, separating families, obstructing medical treatment and impairing the economy, and will he encourage Baghdad to lift the blockade?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The issue of the airport is foremost in the discussions between the respective Prime Ministers, and there is a recognition that if the arrangements for the airport could be changed, that would make a difference. It is essential for the future of a Kurdish region in Iraq that it is stable and secure and that rights are honoured on both sides, and that the constitution is seen to be effective.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

I have just returned from Iraq, and I monitored the first ever elections in Iraq. Elections are important, and the Iraqis in particular would like more technical assistance and advice. They are doing a good job there at the moment, but they need more UK help to bring about reconciliation and progress between the various factions.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I thank the right hon. Lady for her steadfast support of Iraq over many years. Indeed, she and colleagues from the Inter-Parliamentary Union were over there to talk to those in the Iraqi Parliament about governance issues, and the contribution she has made over many years is immensely valuable. Of course, technical assistance from the UK to assist in this process is part of the support we provide, and I will certainly be looking into what more we can do in relation to the elections.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I know the Minister to be a fair-minded man, so when any of these negotiations are taking place, will he balance loyalty as allies of the Kurdish people over many long years with the track record of President Erdoğan?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas referred to the Turkish issue earlier. Certainly there is concern about what is happening on the border and a recognition that the needs of the Kurdish peoples, who are represented by a number of different parties, should be recognised. The UK is always conscious of the relationship we have with those peoples, and with the people of Iraq.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

My right hon. Friend is a noted expert on the region, and it is a pleasure to see him representing Her Majesty’s Government in the middle east, but can he bring a little clarity, which the FAC asked for, on the difference between the YPG and the PKK? We received evidence after evidence that there is indeed no real difference, yet Her Majesty’s Government are supporting a group that appears, at least slightly, to be linked to a group that, as my right hon. Friend’s colleague the Minister for Europe and the Americas said just now, is a proscribed organisation.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I thank my hon. Friend not only for his question but for his leadership of the FAC, and we will study its report carefully. It asked for clarity in some situations in which it is genuinely difficult to provide clarity. There will be a full written response from the Foreign Office in due course, but we do designate the PKK as a proscribed organisation; that is the situation at present.