Anna Soubry welcomes assurances from the Foreign Secretary about events in Iraq, Gaza and the Ukraine

The Foreign Secretary wrote:

I thought it would be helpful to update on you on the situations in Iraq, Gaza and the Ukraine.

Iraq
The situation in northern Iraq remains deeply worrying as ISIL terrorists continue to attack towns and villages in the region and to target Iraqi Christians and the Yazidi community. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people remain cut off, away from their homes and in need of aid supplies.

Our response to the crisis has been focused on three objectives:
– alleviating the humanitarian suffering of Iraqis targeted by ISIL terrorists;
– promoting an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq that can push back ISIL’s advances and restore stability and security across the country; and
– working with like-minded countries to tackle the broader threat that ISIL poses to the region and other countries around the world.

The UK has been at the forefront of the humanitarian relief effort and I am proud of the role that the RAF and British aid have played in the last few days in providing relief to those trapped on Mount Sinjar.

I have welcomed Prime Minister Maliki’s decision to back Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi, as he works to form a new Iraqi Government.  This is an important step at a crucial moment for Iraq and I have made clear that the UK is fully committed to working with an inclusive Iraqi Government as it agrees on immediate actions against ISIL and measures to protect all Iraqi citizens.

Yesterday, in Brussels, I discussed with EU Foreign Ministers measures to coordinate our national responses to the Iraq crisis.  I made clear that we would consider positively any direct requests from the Kurds for military equipment. Furthermore, as President of the UN Security Council in New York, the UK has led on a resolution – adopted unanimously yesterday – which condemns ISIL, freezes asset flows and takes steps against individual terrorists, terrorist financiers and terrorist facilitators. This is a significant step forward in international efforts to tackle this threat.

Ukraine / Russia
We remain firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and we continue to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and reports of Russian military equipment crossing the border into Ukraine.  The UK has been at the forefront of EU measures to impose sanctions on Russia.  To date, 95 individuals and 23 companies have been listed under the EU’s asset freeze and travel ban restrictions. In addition, the EU has introduced economic measures against Russia, including restricting access to EU capital markets, an arms embargo and ban on the export of dual-use goods, and export restrictions on technology for certain energy sectors.

The humanitarian situation in the East of Ukraine remains of concern and we support the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), together with those of other international humanitarian agencies.  The ICRC has been clear that any aid must be delivered with the explicit agreement of the Ukrainian Government and themselves. They have also set out clear conditions for supporting the provision of Russian aid into eastern Ukraine, including that it must be handed over to the ICRC to distribute and that all parties must respect the neutrality and independence of the ICRC and guarantee the safety and security of ICRC personnel for the duration of its mission. The Russian authorities have said they will only proceed with the full agreement of the Ukrainian Government. I have welcomed this commitment and we are watching closely to ensure that it is fulfilled.

Israel / Gaza
The recent extension of the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza is extremely welcome and we call on all parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire and to work towards a lasting ceasefire.  The extension of negotiations should provide respite from the violence for the beleaguered people of Gaza and an opportunity for aid agencies and others to address the dire humanitarian situation there. It is vital that Hamas and other militant groups end rocket fire and that the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza. And Israel should ease its restrictions in order to allow ordinary Palestinians to go about their business and the Gazan economy to grow.  In the meantime, the UK has already contributed £17 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and deployed a world class team of NHS medics to help those injured in the conflict.

The Prime Minister and I have been clear throughout this crisis that the current cycle of violence was triggered by Hamas firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, indiscriminately and in breach of international humanitarian law.  We have also been clear that Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens, but that we have been gravely concerned by the heavy level of civilian casualties and by the intolerable situation faced by ordinary Palestinians in Gaza.  Once a viable and enduring ceasefire has been established, the claims regarding actions by both sides will need to be investigated.

The current negotiations are not easy. But, ultimately, there is no other viable option than a comprehensive negotiated solution that will allow both Israeli and Palestinian people to live in peace and security.  The ultimate objective must be to see a return to talks on a negotiated two-state solution, which remains the only way to resolve the conflict and end the human suffering it causes once and for all.

I hope this update is helpful.

PHILIP HAMMOND