THE BLOG

High-Profile Parliamentary Debate on UK Relations With the Kurdistan Region

10/01/2014 11:28 GMT | Updated 12/03/2014 09:59 GMT

British ignorance of and even an element of wariness towards the Kurdistan Region have been replaced in recent years by a growing recognition of its potential by MPs and Ministers alike.

The latest sign of this changed approach to the Kurdistan Region is that MPs have secured the second major debate on the Kurdistan Region in less than a year in the House of Commons. The last one was at the end of February last year when MPs won official parliamentary recognition of the genocide against the Kurds of Iraq.

Such debates are hard-won and unusual. The forthcoming 90 minute debate will take place from 9.30 to 11am (UK time) on Wednesday 15 January and is on the subject of "UK relations with the Kurdistan Region."

The debate was secured by Conservative MP Jason McCartney, who was an officer in the Royal Air Force based in Incirlik and Zakho when the UK helped police the No-Fly Zone over the Kurdistan Region in the early 1990s. He also visited the Kurdistan Region last June

The debate was also promoted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group, of which Jason McCartney is a leading member. Jason McCartney is expected to be joined by other leading members of the cross-party friendship group such as British-Kurdish MP Nadhim Zahawi, his fellow Co-Chair Meg Munn MP, Robert Halfon and others including the Labour Party's Middle East Spokesman, Ian Lucas, who also visited the Kurdistan Region last June.

The MPs' points will be answered by a Foreign Office Minister and the whole debate will be televised live on the British parliamentary channel (www.parliament.uk).

MPs from the all-party group are expected to call for a deepening of commercial and cultural links between the UK and the Kurdistan Region. They will echo the recommendations of a soon to be published report of the group's latest fact-finding mission to the Kurdistan Region in November. The main recommendations for the British Government are:

• "We will suggest that the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee considers mounting an inquiry into UK relations with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and prospects for Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iran.

• We suggest that the UK Government invite the President and Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region on an official visit to London to meet the PM and the Foreign Secretary.

• We will suggest that the British Government considers the possibility of a visit by the Foreign Secretary to the Kurdistan Region.

• We urge the UK Government to enter into discussions with the KRG about the supply of non-lethal security equipment.

• We urge the UK Government to appoint a UK Trade Envoy to the Kurdistan Region.

• We urge the Prime Minister to convene a seminar at Downing Street on the potential for British interests in the Kurdistan Region.

• We will seek a meeting with the Home Office to discuss the visa regime and any needless obstacles to increased cultural and commercial connections with Kurdistan.

• We continue to urge the British Government to formally recognise the genocide conducted against the Kurds and to take a full part in marking the annual Anfal Day on 14 April."

The report also welcomes the new relationship between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey and urges a new and reliable revenue sharing law, based on the federal constitution, so that Kurdistan can meet the needs of its people.

The official parliamentary website explains that "an adjournment debate is simply a way in the Commons of having a general debate without requiring the House to vote" and "to obtain a response from a government minister."

There won't be a vote but this doesn't matter - not all debates result in a vote. The MPs will have the chance to amplify many of the points made by successive parliamentary delegations to the Kurdistan Region and can expect such points to get a better hearing, initially from the Foreign Office Minister who has to reply to the MPs, and then within the British Government and in wider public opinion.

The all-party group has also recruited as one of its Vice-Chairs the former Middle East Minister, Alistair Burt who is widely respected within Parliament. It is planning a further visit to the Kurdistan Region before Newroz.