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Not enough Turkey outrage from UK, say MPs

Not enough Turkey outrage from UK, say MPs
18.06.2013
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lidington

David Lidington, FCO minister for Europe, answered questions while foreign secretary William Hague remained seated

LABOUR and Green MPs have attacked the British government for issuing only a “meek” public response to the disturbances that have swept Istanbul and other Turkish cities for three weeks.

Five opposition MPs put questions on the Turkish unrest to William Hague, the foreign secretary, and ministers from the Foreign and Commenwealth Office (FCO) at their regular question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

Mr Hague, who was present in the chamber and answered questions on other matters including efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, remained noticeably silent during the session, leaving his deputy David Lidington to respond to questions on Turkey.

“A stable, democratic and prosperous Turkey is important for regional stability,” Mr Lidington told MPs, repeating the FCO’s position, which has remained broadly unchanged since 1 June.

“Turkey remains an important foreign policy partner and NATO ally, and we shall continue to support its continuing reform agenda and encourage Turkey to respect its obligations as defined in the European convention on human rights.”

But the opposition MPs attacked the government for not being critical enough of Turkey.

“Many people who have seen the appalling scenes in Turkey on their television screens will have been dismayed by the rather meek response from [Mr Lidington],” added Chesterfield’s Labour MP Toby Perkins. He called on the FCO to give “a little bit more of a sense of the outrage that people are feeling around the world and confirm that he is putting real pressure on the Turkish Government to respect the right to peaceful protest”.

Labour’s shadow foreign minister Emma Reynolds said “many will be worried and concerned about the generality of the minister’s answers” and called on him to comment specifically on reports of arrests made by Turkish police because of alleged comments on social networking websites.

The Labour voices were joined by the Commons’ only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who highlighted the doctors and nurses who were arrested by Turkish police over the weekend while treating patients. “We haven’t heard enough [from the UK government] of the public outrage that needs to be stated today”, she said.

But Mr Lidington said the British had to respect the fact that Turkey’s government is democratically elected.

“We are obviously concerned about the reports of the arrest of lawyers and doctors who were treating injured protesters at the scene of the demonstrations. The freedoms of assembly, association and expression are important rights,” he told MPs.

“It is fair to recognise that Turkey has carried through substantial judicial and political reforms in the past 20 years. It is a very different country from when the military ruled and the army were deployed on the streets at the first sign of a demonstration, but that does not detract from the fact that the basic freedoms and human rights that Turkey has signed up to need to be respected.”

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