Nagorno-Karabakh

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

What proposals the Government have put forward to the UN Security Council on a resolution to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We remain deeply concerned about the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, and call on all parties to take every measure possible to protect civilians. That is why, on 29 September, the UK called for discussion at the UN Security Council. The day before that, on 28 September, I spoke to both the Azerbaijani and the Armenian Foreign Ministers to urge a return to dialogue under the OSCE Minsk group to ensure a peaceful and sustainable settlement.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

The Minister will know that there are more Azeris living in Iran than there are in Azerbaijan—some 50 million of them, who hold great sway and influence. Russia, on the other hand, is firmly committed to supporting Armenia in this conflict, and that could see the Russian and Iranian co-operation in the Syrian war come under severe strain. What concerns does the Minister have about the potential for Iran to become embroiled in the dispute, and what steps is her Department taking to avoid that situation?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

As I clearly indicated, we remain very concerned about this conflict, and the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it. That is why we are continuing to work to urge both parties back to the table to have dialogue, and to use the Minsk process to further that.

Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I have two very concrete points. We are all concerned about the risk of a proxy war within this, because there are more than two sides to the conflict. What steps are the UK Government taking to make sure that no UK-made armaments, or indeed UK citizens, are finding their way into this theatre?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Again, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise this important point. On armaments, we have export licences in place and a very rigorous process to deal with applications with regard to any country, and that is always kept under careful and continual review. We are aware of many media reports that other countries are providing military support, for example, but we absolutely maintain a commitment to encouraging and urging both sides to come back to the table and have the dialogue that is needed.

Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I gently suggest that there is something for us to follow up in that, because there is a great deal of concern that UK armaments and people are finding their way into this theatre.

On a wider point, does the Minister share my concern about Turkey’s increasingly belligerent statements in the wider region? She will be aware of yesterday’s statement by the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, about the retaking of the Varosha settlement in northern Cyprus, which continues to be illegally occupied. What discussions is she having with Ankara in order to strongly stress our defence of international law?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

In terms of Turkey, the Defence Secretary discussed the conflict during a recent visit to Ankara and again agreed that de-escalation was the best option for all. I reiterate that, as the Foreign Secretary has said on previous occasions, we urge all external parties and friends of both states to redouble their efforts in support for an end to these hostilities and to refrain from taking actions that risk deepening the crisis. As co-chair of the Minsk group, Russia has a role in working to end the conflict too.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Further to the question of Nagorno-Karabakh, obviously the ceasefire is very fragile, and with the use of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria, there is a real risk of escalation. What steps are the Government taking to ensure a return to dialogue, as ultimately only through dialogue can this dreadful conflict come to an end? Specifically on Turkey and Russia, what urgent discussions are being carried out in order to try to get them to stop their arms sales so that that does not increase the militarisation and the number of civilians who are tragically being killed in the region?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Lady makes a very important point reinforcing the need for dialogue. The Foreign Secretary issued two statements with Canadian Foreign Minister Champagne, most recently on 6 October, calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table under the auspices of the OSCE group. On 28 September, the Prime Minister spoke to President Erdoğan and discussed the recent escalation. On 2 October, I spoke to Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Önal to register concerns at the military escalation. We have been engaging with the co-chairs of the Minsk group—the French, the US and Russia. I will continue to reach out to my counterparts—both the Armenian and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers—to reinforce the UK’s support for de-escalation and a return to dialogue.