Kurdistan and Iraq

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee 12:00 am, 26th June 2018

What progress the Government are making on encouraging dialogue between the Kurdistan regional government and the Government of Iraq.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

What recent assessment his Department has made of the political and security situation in 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)

Through ministerial and other engagements, we are urging the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government to resolve differences on all immediate issues. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has pressed this message with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi. The national elections in May were a pivotal moment. With Daesh defeated territorially in Iraq, the next challenge is winning the peace.

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

With the all-party group on Kurdistan, I recently visited Sulaimani University and Kurdistan University. Their students love Britain and want to study in Britain, yet are being held back by visa bureaucracy. Given that Kurdistan is in the frontline against ISIL and is a beacon of stability, can my right hon. Friend do more to unwind the bureaucracy so that more Kurdistan students can study in our country?

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 Government’s position is to say repeatedly that we want the brightest and best students to be able to come to the United Kingdom. Our policy in Irbil is to encourage exactly the same. I will look at the question my right hon. Friend raises, because we want to ensure that students in the Kurdish region, who I have also met, are able to come to the UK.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

As Iraq attempts to move forward, what discussions has the Minister had with his Iraqi counterparts about respecting international human rights standards, especially with regards to the rights of women in 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)

It is a constant part of the conversation we have in Iraq and in other places to make sure that as the country moves forward, particularly after a relatively successful election process, all sections of the community are included in future. When we meet Iraqi parliamentarians, as well as Ministers, we stress that a country is not complete unless women are playing a foremost part both in ministerial and civic society life.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

In what way is the demand for full freedom and self-determination among the Iraqi people, particularly the people of Kurdistan, illegitimate?

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)

Questions of the constitutional structure of Iraq are not for the United Kingdom. There is regular dialogue between different sections of the community in Iraq about the proper constitutional processes and structures that will help all parts of the community to develop effectively and strongly. It is essential that the new Government recognise the needs of all sections of Iraqi society.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour/Co-operative, Feltham and Heston

More dialogue is vital and must be supported by the international community. What assessment has the Minister made of the influence of Russia in the negotiations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government, given the significant investment by the Russian firm Rosneft in Kurdistan’s regional oil pipeline?

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)

It is true to say that, in the formation of the new Iraqi Government, there are many interests from countries in the region. What is essential is that the new Iraqi Government demonstrate their independence and determination to run Iraq without external interference, and stand up for the needs of all their communities to make sure that the disaster that befell Iraq in the past, when other communities were not properly represented, does not happen again.