Jack Lopresti MP explains why Kurdistan matters to the UK

The peaceful independence referendum a year ago today in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and the violent reaction by Baghdad was lost in the news maelstrom but the rehabilitation and reform of Kurdistan and Iraq is highly significant to us.

I have visited Kurdistan at crucial stages in the last few years of war, officially observed the referendum, and recently flew to Baghdad to meet the President and foreign minister. I can easily make a moral case for a place that respects us, was crucial to defeating Daesh in Mosul, routinely protects Christians, promotes women’s equality, and wants to deepen its young democracy.

That argument only goes so far given other pressing policy priorities. I also want to advocate the case that the success of Kurdistan is in our hard-headed interests.

Daesh was smashed on the ground but its surviving soldiers have not simply gone back to civvy street. Pockets of insurgents are still active and their vile ideology has not been vanquished. The sectarian centralisation that encouraged ordinary Sunnis to collaborate with them, rat on their neighbours, or join them has not yet been put to one side.

Not only does Mosul have to be rebuilt but it also needs decentralised governance that make Sunnis feel comfortable in a Shia dominated Iraq. As do the Kurds and indeed the Shia city of Basra, which has been the power-house of the Iraqi economy although evidence of benefits is hard to find in its paltry infrastructure and services.

The Kurds are clear they want to leave and maybe one day they will be able to negotiate an exit that combines statehood with extensive co-operation with Iraq on security and maybe some form of common market.

The continuing cultural battle against extremist ideology, that could one day erupt back into life as a more vicious death cult, is lucky to have a people who detest Daesh, will resist it and want to work with us.

I was so proud, as one who served in Afghanistan, to meet our soldiers in Kurdistan who are training the Peshmerga to be a more professional and unified army.

As a Parliamentarian, I was bowled over when Kurdistani MPs from all several parties, ethnic and religious groups told us they want British MPs to train them.

The Kurds voluntarily decided to set up their Parliament under the protection of the no-fly zone pioneered by Sir John Major, a working class boy whose fantastic, inspirational, and aspirational story set me on the path to Parliament.

Their Parliament has not become the respected pulpit of national debate that could drive further much needed reform and inspire its people. A deeper democracy in the Middle East and in Iraq is not merely good in itself but can provide the leadership and resilience that makes it harder for extremism to flourish. Kurdistan could then do much more to drain the swamp and allow us to live without the fear of being bombed at home.

The last year was a tough trial for the Kurds but they came through and are bouncing back. A judicious mixture of altruism and self-interest can serve them and the UK for the best.

Jack Lopresti is the Conservative MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke and the Chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

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Brief statement by MPs on the recent Iranian attack on Koya

Our increasingly smaller world allows some victims of violence to use round-the-clock news and smart phones to encourage international remedies and justice. But some issues fall through the cracks into relative silence and invisibility, which encourages the guilty to believe they can continue with impunity.

Iran’s recent missile attack against an Iranian Kurdish refugee camp in Koya in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq could fall into that category, although we welcome good statements from the UK and the US.

Nearly 20 people were killed and fifty injured in long-range missile attacks on this camp in a clear attempt to intimidate Iraqi Kurdistan whose leaders are possibly pivotal to the process of selecting a new coalition and Prime Minister in Baghdad.

The Kurdistan Regional Government remains a vital ally in resisting extremism and in creating decentralised forms of governance plus reconstruction and economic prosperity that can prevent any further resurgence of extremism. Its security is vital to our interests and that means continuing and more concerted action to stop further Iranian aggression.

Jack Lopresti MP (Conservative)
Chairman

Mary Glindon MP (Labour)
Vice Chair

Robert Halfon MP (Conservative)
Vice Chair

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour)
Officer

APPG Kurdistan Region in Iraq

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Jack Lopresti MP. We can help Kurdistan bridge the gap

This article by Jack Lopresti appears in the Times Red Box outlet today

British parliamentarians have closely observed Kurdistan’s progress from a region suffering genocide and grave injustices to a fledgling nation seeking to determine its own destiny. This has taken place over a decade of fact-finding delegations working on the front line with the Peshmerga in the city of Kirkuk, with Iraqi soldiers in Mosul as it was being liberated, and in Baghdad.

Kurdistan often fits into Iraq like a square peg in a round hole. Their only cordial decade of relations in a century ended in 2014 when Baghdad unilaterally severed federal fiscal transfers. Both parties united to expel Daesh, but then fell out over Kurdistani independence.

I had the privilege of being in Kurdistan for the referendum on negotiated independence last year and was horrified that Baghdad violently seized Kirkuk, killed Peshmerga, blockaded Kurdistani airports, and tried but failed to dismantle the Kurdistan regional government. The violence supposedly upheld the constitution although the constitution explicitly defines Iraq as a voluntary union.

Baghdad’s behaviour was vicious and unnecessary, while Kurds are clear what they want in the longer term, but they are now stuck as part of a federal Iraq. The Kurds need robust pragmatism in dealing with Baghdad, which is changing in any case, and all based on applying the long-neglected constitution, which should protect Kurdistani rights.

There’s much to commend Kurdistan. Its deep and natural support for religious tolerance, openness to the world, and pro-Western attitudes, top the list. Its pivotal geopolitical position makes it useful to easing wider tensions, bridging Europe and Iraq, and basing those rebuilding a shattered Mosul.

But friends must not ignore its own internal challenges. Kurdistan needs thorough reform of its dysfunctional and unproductive economy with its huge state employment rolls, a tiny private sector, corruption, an over-dependence on oil, and little progress in tapping its plentiful agriculture and tourist potential. Visitors are always amazed by the beauty of the vast verdant plains, astonishing mountains and rivers, and historical sites as well as commendable security.

The Kurds should make themselves fit for any possible future. A neutral, efficient and accountable military is vital. I visited British soldiers in Erbil who have trained thousands of enthusiastic Peshmerga. This matters to us because the Peshmerga were decisive in defeating Daesh, whose roots in Baghdad’s sectarian centralisation remain live and which could re-emerge in even more vicious forms.

But the Kurds cannot do this alone and look to Britain to boost their capacity. English is their second language, many leaders and others have spent years here and have UK passports — this includes their deputy prime minister. Our universities and quality services and goods attract them.

It is a singular honour that the Kurdistani Parliament’s first ever all-party group focuses on Britain. They want our parliamentarians and others to train them to be more effective, and deepen their new and shallow democracy. We can also encourage civil society and help to lift the voices of young people who are a vast majority there.

The Kurds have survived so many injustices, but we should never take this for granted and need to do more as a strategic priority to protect and promote the positive power of our great friends and allies.

Jack Lopresti MP is the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

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Minutes of annual general meeting

Minutes of annual general meeting of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. Tuesday 10 July 2018. CR8.

Attendance: Jack Lopresti, Robert Halfon, Mary Glindon, Lord Clement-Jones, Graham Jones, Bob Blackman, Michael Tomlinson, Lady Hodgson, Dame Rosie Winterton, and Daniel Carden.

Also in attendance: Gary Kent (Secretary), Matthew Dent (Parliamentary Secretary to Jack Lopresti), Karwan Jamal Tahir and Hawre Wahid for the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Liam Allmark of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.

Apologies. Andrea Jenkyns, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Henry Smith MP, Ian Austin, Lord Glasman, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

1 Agreed Jack Lopresti as Chairman.

2 Agreed Lord Clement-Jones, Mary Glindon, Robert Halfon MP and Ian Austin as Vice-Chairs.

3 Agreed the following as officers: Mike Gapes MP, Graham Jones MP, Bob Stewart MP, Henry Smith MP, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Lord Glasman, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Chris Stephens MP, Bob Blackman MP, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Ramsay, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Michael Tomlinson MP, Daniel Carden MP, Steve Reed MP, and Tom Brake MP.

4 Approved the Income and Expenditure statement for 26 June 2017 to 25 June 2018.

5 Gary Kent, Jack Lopresti, Robert Halfon and Matthew Dent reported on the recent delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad. Liam Allmark also gave his views as an observer.

Mary Glindon suggested we look at twinning arrangements between British and Kurdistani institutions. Bob Blackman suggested we look at possible activities involving the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Michael Tomlinson suggested we seek a meeting with the new Foreign Secretary.

6 KRG High Representative Karwan Jamal Tahir briefed the group on the current situation in the Kurdistan Region. He thanked the RAF on its centenary for its invaluable assistance in fighting Daesh and protecting Kurdistan.

7 Agreed the following:

We welcome the Kurdistani Parliament’s APPG on the UK as a partner in providing training of MPs and in encouraging other organisations to train Kurdistani MPs.

We will convene a meeting of interested groups to discuss this and also how we can encourage the growth and capacity of youth and student groups in Kurdistan.

We will explore how to organise short and introductory delegations outside parliamentary recesses to undertake some training at the Kurdistani Parliament, meet youth and student groups and a few senior leaders as well as the British community in Kurdistan.

We will publish the report of the last delegation online and in printed form to be circulated to all attendees at the recent KRG reception.

Articles by participants will be drafted by Gary to coincide with the publication of the report, who will also seek to persuade a newspaper to publish a news report.

We will seek a meeting with the new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and with Alistair Burt to discuss the report.

We will seek a meeting with the Immigration Minister to discuss the visa situation.

ies appg

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Christians in Kurdistan and Iraq

Reflections from Liam Allmark – head of public affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Liam Allmark was an observer on the last APPG delegation and these are his views

Our Bishops do not align themselves with any political group or party. However the Catholic community in England and Wales has a strong connection with the Christian community in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, so it was a welcome opportunity to accompany British MPs and join in some of their conversations.

Christianity has ancient roots in this part of the world and, despite the enormous challenges their community has faced, Christians continue to play an active role in society today. We met Christian lawmakers in the Kurdistan Parliament; attended a packed Mass in St Joseph’s Chaldean Cathedral; saw the Church’s university and the site of its new hospital; held lively conversations with Christian students (and of course shared culinary delights in Ankawa – Erbil’s Christian Quarter).

The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda describes his mission here “to help my people not to survive but to thrive.” We hope that anyone concerned with the future of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region can get behind this vision.

We know all too well how much Iraq’s Christian community has suffered in recent decades because of conflict and political instability. As the leaders of churches in the Kurdistan Region stated last year: “it is possible to say without any doubt that it is the Christians who continue to be the biggest losers in all of these fights, to which they have never been party and which, if continued, would render our people more intent on emigration, leading to their being wiped out from the surface of this land.”

During this visit the delegation received fresh insight into those challenges facing the region’s Christians, around 100,000 of whom fled to Erbil from their homes on the Nineveh Plains, escaping the advance of Daesh in 2014.

Things today are very different to my last visit a few years ago: almost half of the Christians who arrived in Erbil as IDPs have returned home and the Church’s last IDP camp is about to close. This is largely due to the phenomenal work of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, a collaboration between the Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox, and Syriac Catholic communities, which has so far renovated more than 4,000 homes, with support from the international community.

However, there are still tens of thousands of displaced Christians living in the Kurdistan Region who do not know what the future holds. Thousands of homes on the Nineveh Plains, along with vital infrastructure and farmland wrecked by Daesh forces, still need to be restored. The huge costs are even harder to meet against the backdrop of economic difficulties in Iraq.

Without opportunities to return home or rebuild their lives, many Christians will follow the thousands who have left for Europe or America. Iraq’s Christian community has already shrunk exponentially over the past decade. If it continues to do so this will be to the detriment of the whole country.

We hope that going forward the UK will increase its support for reconstruction, job creation, and educational opportunities both in the Kurdistan Region and more widely, which will help give a meaningful future to this community that has experienced so much violence, displacement and destruction of their livelihoods.

Another critical issue is the security of people returning to the Nineveh Plains. During the visit we heard how instability on the plains, exacerbated in the aftermath of the referendum, has slowed down reconstruction and left many people frightened to return. It was also clear that Daesh remains a threat, despite losing control of territory.

When fighting broke out between Iraqi and Kurdish forces following the referendum, leaders of Churches in the Kurdistan Region appealed: “the Plains of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory; it is critical to not divide it into parts. Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights. The Plain of Nineveh is a great symbol for Christians in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the world.”

As political negotiations continue, we hope that friends of the region including our own politicians will work with both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government to protect families returning to the Nineveh Plains, safeguard their land rights, and give them a proper stake in decisions about their future.

Above all, it is important that our government, politicians and diplomats continue to engage with Christians in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, promoting their position as citizens with essential rights and responsibilities; while engaging with the Church in England and Wales which continues to maintain close contacts with the Church across the region.

As Cardinal Vincent Nichols reflected following his own visit, the Christian community is “an integral part of the country’s societal fabric and essential for creating a more stable future. The community’s deep commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation is especially important as Iraq strives to emerge from decades of conflict.”

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Two steps forward, one step back in Kurdistan

The report of the latest APPG delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad is here at appg kurdistan delegation report may 2018 website

Introduction to the report of the APPG delegation to Kurdistan and Baghdad, with the participation of Jack Lopresti MP and Robert Halfon MP, and others

The Kurds in Iraq are amongst our foremost friends in the Middle East and have been to hell and back in the last four years but have survived.

They were also decisive in defeating Daesh and remain crucial to our own national security because Daesh is still ideologically potent, and has not evaporated as a guerrilla force, which could morph into a new and even more vicious group.

The Kurds were entitled to hold a peaceful referendum on the principle of independence. Baghdad’s vicious and violent reaction to a peaceful vote of intention made a mockery of the first article of the Iraqi constitution which insists that Iraq is a voluntary union: the Kurds can check out but never leave, it seems.

It is shameful that Baghdad opportunistically tried to dismantle the internationally recognised Kurdistan Regional Government and suffocate their economy. Baghdad failed and whilst I cannot forgive them for killing Peshmerga, senior leaders in Baghdad recognise the need to row back from violence and reset relations with the Kurds, although it should be based firmly on the federalism in the Iraqi constitution and the Kurds need robust pragmatism in dealing with Baghdad.

The report of our latest fact-finding delegation – the 15th in a decade – argues that the Kurds are geopolitically pivotal, with the expertise and experience to challenge extremism, and encourage peace-making. The Kurds are a bridge between Europe, Turkey and Iraq. They could again be a magnet for investment and through that to the wider market in Iraq. Kurdistan could be a base for those reconstructing Mosul. Kurds in Iraq could help ease antagonism between neighbouring governments and other Kurdistans.

The Kurds also know they need to reform their own systems, the fault lines and flaws of which have been cruelly exposed in recent years. Our latest report highlights the need for thorough reform of its top-heavy and oil dependent rentier economy. We say that Kurdistan needs to adopt a capitalist model with the balance between market and state and individual and collective rights suiting Kurdistani needs. A new tax system could include a wealth tax so that sacrifices are shared more equally and funds are raised for a welfare state.

We also argue that Kurdistan also relies too heavily on state employment, that the size of the state strangles independent private businesses, and that massive opportunities to develop agriculture, tourism, light industry and more have yet to gain traction.

In all this there is a major and mutually beneficial political and commercial role for the UK, which is keenly desired by the Kurds. It’s a great symbol of the popular esteem for the UK that Kurdistani MPs have formed an all-party group on the UK, the first such group. They want MPs and others here to train their MPs and deepen their young democracy. We can also cultivate youth and student organisations.

Our initial audit of the British footprint in Kurdistan includes support for modernising the Peshmerga, more links between our universities, cultivating a film industry so Kurds can better tell their stories, and reforming the visa system for Kurds who need to come here for business and other purposes. The UK should organise an official trade mission to Kurdistan.

The report of the delegation, which included an observer from the Catholic Church in England and Wales, highlights Kurdistan’s religious pluralism, which we say is all too rare throughout the Middle East and something which we should not take for granted.

Political engagement in the Middle East sounds alarms for many but it would be short-sighted to ignore the need to help reliable allies there stand on their own two feet. This enables them to avoid further conflicts that create refugee flows and destabilise the world economy. A dynamic and reforming Iraqi Kurdistan should be a major UK goal.

Gary Kent
APPG Secretary

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Visas and self-determination for the Kurds raised in the Commons

Kurdistan figured prominently in this month’s oral questions in the Commons to the Foreign Secretary and his ministerial team. The salience of any one issue is largely a matter of luck given that the questions are chosen by lottery – picked out the hat.

But it was good to see a significant exchange on some key issues all prompted by a question from the Conservative MP and APPG vice- chairman Robert Halfon.

Halfon joined the recent delegation to Kurdistan, his sixth visit with me, and whilst the rest of us travelled to Baghdad for the day he stayed to meet academics and students at the University of Slemani and then at the University of Kurdistan-Hewler.

He was keen to do this because he was an Education minister and is now the Chairman of the powerful scrutiny committee on education.

In his diary of the delegation he recorded that the best part of his visit to the university in Slemani was sitting in a lecture hall with students but added that it was both profoundly uplifting and thoroughly depressing.

He found it depressing because students “are upset about our Prime Minster, recently using the expression ‘Kurdish Terrorists’. Theresa May was talking about the proscribed terrorist group the PKK, but that does not cut the mustard with the students. They complain that we call ISIS ‘ISIS’ – not ‘Arab Terrorists’.”

Furthermore, he heard that “the students love Britain, learn about Britain, but question after question is: why is the visa system so complicated, and why can they not travel to Britain to study? I promise to raise this with the Home Office and Foreign Office, but I can’t help thinking just how damaging it is having students as part of the migration target. Here is a pro-western, pro-British nation, tolerant of all religions and backgrounds, whose view of our country is being negatively coloured by the behaviour of the visa bureaucracy, alongside a perception of a hostile environment from GB to foreign students. Very sad indeed.”

He found much the same at UKH and asked himself : “What is wrong with Britain? Why are we not doing more to support the Kurds? Why is it so hard to study at British Universities? I do my best to bat for Britain, but I feel I am on a sticky wicket.”

True to his promise, he used the first opportunity to raise the visa issue in the Commons where he asked the Middle East minister, Alistair Burt the following: “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?

Alistair Burt replied that “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.”

The APPG, which will shortly publish a report on its delegation, will pursue the visa issue which it discussed with the Consulate-General in Erbil and the British Embassy in Baghdad.

Other MPs then weighed in. Labour’s Bridget Phillipson asked about Iraq respecting international human rights standards, especially with regards to the rights of women in Iraq? Burt insisted that the UK stresses “that a country is not complete unless women are playing a foremost part both in ministerial and civic society life.”

Burt diplomatically batted away a probing question from Labour’s Seema Malhotra asking him to assess 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.

Burt opined that “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.”

Sir Desmond Swayne, a veteran Conservative MP, who used to be an aide to Prime Minister David Cameron and a minister at the Department for International Development, then popped up with a pithy but profound question: “In what way is the demand for full freedom and self-determination among the Iraqi people, particularly the people of Kurdistan, illegitimate?”

Burt gave a quintessentially diplomatic reply that “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.”

Nonetheless, the right question was posed and it is one that friends of Kurdistan should seek to provide answers for in future exchanges. My own first stab at it is that the Iraqi constitution should be respected, that it defines Iraq as a free union and that, combined with various international declarations on self-determination, make the quest for statehood legitimate.

Who knows, a variant on the Swayne question may arise in future Commons questions with any luck but are definitely on the agenda.

Gary Kent

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AGM

The AGM of the APPG takes place in CR8 on Tuesday 10 July at 6pm.

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Kurdistan in Foreign Office questions

26 June 2018

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)

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

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)

8. What recent assessment his Department has made of the political and security situation in Iraq.

The Minister for the Middle East (Alistair Burt)

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.

Robert Halfon

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?

Alistair Burt

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.

Bridget Phillipson

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?

Alistair Burt

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.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

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

Alistair Burt

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.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)

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?

Alistair Burt

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.

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Why UK should continue training the brave Peshmerga

Commons Questions 11 June 2018

Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)

During a recent visit to Iraq, a delegation from the all-party group on Kurdistan met British soldiers who have trained thousands of Peshmerga, helping the brave allies whose sacrifice and resistance to ISIS enhances our safety, and whose rights in a federal Iraq need international protection. Will the Minister confirm that the Department will continue that vital mentoring mission? [905771]

Mark Lancaster

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for highlighting just one of the many training missions the British Army and other services carry out around the world. Indeed, we are currently operating in excess of 20 countries to provide non-lethal training.

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