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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, yes. GEC Yarrows signed a contract in 1992 to deliver two frigates to the Royal Malaysian Navy, as the noble Lord suggests, in 1996. Sea acceptance tests are currently under way and we hope that the ships will be delivered in mid-1999.

Turkey: Political Detainees

3.11 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I have indicated to the House on previous occasions, we regard the prosecution of democratically elected politicians for the non-violent expression of their views as wrong. In the case of Ms Zana and the other former Democracy Party (DEP) members of the Turkish parliament, we support the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in November 1997 that the original detention of the MPs was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We welcome the Turkish Government's acknowledgement of the court's judgment and the payment of compensation awarded to the defendants.

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We understand that a number of other aspects of the case of the former DEP MPs are still before the court, and we continue to monitor all developments closely.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, I remind her that Leyla Zana's sentence has been extended for no reason other than that she wrote a letter on her opinion of what was happening to her in jail. Can we not remind the Turkish government, if they really believe in human rights, that they must release elected members of parliament if Turkey ever hopes to become part of the European Union?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the issue of human rights and civil liberties in Turkey is one which Her Majesty's Government and our colleagues in the EU are pursuing with the Turkish government as part of their application. What has happened to Ms Zana is extremely regrettable. I have taken note of the points which the noble Lord has made. In my initial Answer, I hope that I made the Government's position very clear on the issue of detaining MPs for the non-violent expression of their beliefs.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the noble Baroness have any information as to whether or not Mr. Murat Bozlak and more than 250 leading members of the HADEP party, who were recently arrested, have been released or charged?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have been extremely concerned about the continuing reports of the raids on the HADEP offices and the detention of its officials. Our ambassador in Turkey has raised with the Prime Minister's office in Turkey as recently as 24th November the reports of 3,000 HADEP members and officials being detained. I hope it is clear that we strongly condemn the systematic attacks on a legal and democratic party. We are extremely concerned about the news of the detention of Murat Bozlak. We continue to reinforce to the Turks that they will be judged internationally by their treatment of legal and democratic parties.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the United States' view that the European Union's failure to put Turkey on the same basis as the other 11 aspirant countries for EC membership was a mistake?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not suppose that the noble Lord will be surprised to learn that, no, Her Majesty's Government do not agree with the United States view on that. The Government believe that the action which was taken in relation to Turkey was the right action. We were able to go forward at Cardiff in a very constructive way. The Government, both bilaterally and through the EU, have offered Turkey considerable help on progressing its application to join the EU.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister agree that conditions for joining the European

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Community which apply to Turkey are exactly the same as those which apply to all other applicants to the European Union?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can confirm that that is the position. The conditions are the same for all applicants.

Lord Rea: My Lords, would it not be better for the European Union to present its case to Turkey more in terms of carrots than sticks; in other words, to offer conditional advantages to Turkey if only it accelerates its improvement in relation to human rights?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I urge my noble friend Lord Rea to read the statements coming from the Cardiff European Council, which gave us a good basis on which to take forward relations with Turkey. The Council endorsed the European strategy for Turkey; agreed annual reports on Turkey's progress towards a readiness for EU membership; and noted the Commission's intention to bring forward new proposals for funding.

There has been good progress on the European strategy. It aims to develop relations with Turkey across the board as well as building on the customs union. The Commission made a very useful first visit to Ankara in September to discuss the details of that strategy. Therefore, I believe that the policy is one of carrots. There may be a few sticks but there are many carrots too.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, now that the Minister has had time to think again, does she know whether the Government believe that any third countries have extra-territorial criminal jurisdiction over Turkey?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not know whether any countries have extra-territorial jurisdiction over Turkey. If the noble Lord would like me to research that interesting question, I shall of course do so and write to him.

Turkey: Kurdish Conflict

3.17 p.m.

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will join the Italian Government in using the request of the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, for political asylum as an opportunity, under United Nations or pan-European auspices, to start negotiating an end to the conflict in south eastern Turkey.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government support the Italian Government's determination to fully implement its laws and treaty obligations in the case of the leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), Abdullah Ocalan. The question of political asylum is a decision for the Italian Government. We have made clear that we regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

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We are aware that, on 27th November, Chancellor Schroder and Prime Minister D'Alema discussed the possibility of an international conference on the Kurds. Mr. D'Alema also raised this issue with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister during their talks in London on 30th November. We do not judge that there is, at present, any scope for a multilateral negotiating process to address this issue.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. It perhaps gives some hope that we may take a positive line on this. Is the Minister aware that Ocalan, like many others who have been branded terrorists, is now genuinely interested in open-ended talks aimed at ending the conflict in south east Turkey? That is a conflict which has been many times more destructive than that in Kosovo, and that conflict is one which interests both Europe and the United States.

Is she further aware--the Minister acknowledged it in her Answer--that several other countries in Europe feel that Ocalan's presence should be used to set up a procedure not only to examine any charges against him but also to examine critically the whole question of the origins of and possible solutions to the conflict in south east Turkey through, perhaps, the OSCE, the Council of Europe or even the United Nations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I urge my noble friend Lord Rea to be cautious on this issue. Mr. Ocalan is the leader of a brutal terrorist group which was responsible for the death and injury of British citizens and for thousands of deaths within the Turkish and Kurdish communities in Turkey. My noble friend says that perhaps Mr. Ocalan has changed his mind about the use of violence. However, we are not convinced by the PKK's recent announcement of a cease-fire. There have been numerous such announcements in the past and none has been sustained.

We note that there was a suicide bombing incident in south east Turkey on 17th November in which a number of civilians were injured, and another suicide attack in Diyarbakir on 1st December. It is proper and right that I should draw your Lordships' attention to the claims of the PKK in the past few days that they shot down a Turkish military helicopter in south east Turkey. Neither the suicide bombings nor the shooting down of the helicopter seem consistent, in our view, with the claims that the PKK has renounced violence.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, three times over, the PKK has offered cease-fires which were rejected with scorn by the Turkish Government? Is it not true also that, instead of demanding a separate Kurdish state, it is now prepared to settle for autonomy? Is not that a great step forward and an indication that there are possibilities for a negotiated settlement?

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