My Lords, we are working closely with allies to deliver a sustained, comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. We welcome the recent decisions of Canada, the
Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to join air strikes against ISIL. The Foreign Secretary continues to emphasise to our counterparts the need collectively to squeeze ISIL’s finances, to provide appropriate support to moderate forces in Iraq and Syria, and to work for an inclusive Government in Baghdad and political transition in Syria.
My Lords, we are about to witness genocide, with the Daesh terrorists slaughtering thousands of Kurds in the besieged city of Kobani. Cannot the coalition airdrop military and humanitarian supplies to the defenders, as it has done in Iraq? If the Turks cannot help us by allowing use of airbases, as was suggested by Susan Rice yesterday, could they not at least allow the coalition to place observers on the border, so that the air strikes that we are mounting against ISIS in Kobani can be directed by observers on the ground?
My noble friend points to a situation in Kobani which deeply concern us all. Naturally, we are watching developments very closely. Turkey is already playing an important role in our coalition effort against ISIL, particularly through its humanitarian support in the region—my noble friend referred to that work, which I am sure will continue and intensify. Turkey is also assisting in providing support to the Syrian moderate opposition. Therefore we welcome Turkey’s support for the air strikes in Syria and Iraq, and the President of Turkey’s affirmation that he and his country are willing to play their part in the military campaign. My noble friend is right to press us to look further at how we might discuss with Turkey where that direction of help may develop. I am grateful to him for raising those issues today.
My Lords, the Foreign Secretary told the Telegraph yesterday that there was a legal basis for air strikes in Syria—not just in Iraq, where there is no doubt—but as there is no Security Council resolution and no question of self-defence, on what doctrine of international law do the Government depend?
My Lords, with regard to Iraq, the position was set out clearly in the recall of Parliament, and my noble friend the Leader of the House repeated that. With regard to Syria, there are arguments that there is a legal basis in international law; namely, where there is a humanitarian disaster, action may have to be taken. What I can say clearly is exactly what the Prime Minister and the Leader of this House have said; that is, if we get to a position where it is felt appropriate to move to further engagement and if there is a knowledge ahead, a premeditation, of taking further action, then nothing will be done unless the Government return to Parliament to have that matter considered.
My Lords, in her reply, the Minister mentioned the importance of an inclusive Government in Baghdad. Given the number of Sunni Muslims who have been antagonised by the kinds of policies that have been pursued in the past, can she say what more is being done to prevent them becoming a fertile breeding ground for IS? Will she say a word also about the position of the Yazidis, Christian minorities and others, who are without adequate accommodation as the winter months now approach?
My Lords, there are two different strands there; I will refer to the humanitarian effort first. Clearly, as winter draws in fast, the humanitarian effort has to be directed at preventing people from dying of hypothermia. It is a most serious matter. I know that DfID has clearly worked hard on that, and, I understand, so have our partners. I discussed those matters with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross when I was in Geneva last month. With regard to the way in which minorities have suffered in the existing crisis, it is clear that life in the whole area for Christians and other minorities is deeply distressing. We certainly discussed repeatedly with the Government of Iraq how that might be resolved. I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that when Foreign Office Ministers visit the region, they always meet the Christian communities to discuss their concerns. My honourable friend Mr Ellwood, in his visit at the end of August, specifically raised the persecution of Christians with the then Foreign Minister Zebari and other senior officials. It is something that we take very seriously.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her last answer, which was very reassuring. However, given that the terrible events in Iraq and Syria are the result of a global phenomenon of ideology, what steps are the Government taking to support other areas such as Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Pakistan and Sudan where similar problems need to be either prevented, mitigated or contained?
My Lords, this is a matter that I discussed this very morning with a group set up by my noble friend Lady Warsi at the Foreign Office. She did most important work; the group is considering freedom of religion or belief. I can say firmly not only that this is one of the six priorities for this Government, but, as when my noble friend Lady Warsi led on this, it is a personal priority for me to ensure that throughout government and throughout our discussions, we consider exactly those points. It is not just a matter of looking at one area but of considering how a breaking down of religion or belief around the world can undermine the very societies in which people need to have security.