Select Committee on International Development Fifth Report




1.  FCO appear to have been first alerted to the possibility of ECGD support for UK participation in the Ilisu project by means of a copy of a letter from ECGD to the Treasury on 13 January 1999. FCO did not comment in writing on this letter. On 16 March, FCO provided ECGD with brief lines to take in response to correspondence about the project, covering policy towards the Kurds and human rights abuses in south-east Turkey. On 31 March the then Minister of State at FCO wrote to the then Minister for Trade, drawing attention to the importance of a decision not being taken to support the Balfour Beatty bid, until the social, environmental, and wider regional aspects of the project had been properly addressed. The Minister for Trade responded positively on 5 May. FCO also provided briefing for the Minister of Trade's visit to Turkey later that month: this briefing, while not specifically referring to the Ilisu project, provided detailed background on the general issue of human rights in Turkey.

2.  On 24 May FCO provided ECGD at official level with a fuller assessment of their thinking at this time: this covered in some detail FCO's concerns in respect of the resettlement issue and the international standards that Turkey would need to meet in that context. In a further exchange between officials in FCO and ECGD towards the end of August FCO urged the importance of an agreed plan for the resettlement of local people directly affected by the project.

3.  On 19 October there were discussions between the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Foreign Secretary about Ilisu: the Foreign Secretary drew attention to the sensitivities surrounding the resettlement issue. On 26 November the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry wrote to the Foreign Secretary about Ilisu. He summarised the position as it then stood and set out the four key areas where, in his view, progress needed to be made. These included resolving the issue of resettlement of the local population in accordance with internationally accepted practice.

4.  The Foreign Secretary responded on 2 December, confirming his support for that approach. Following the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's announcement on 21 December of the Government's position on the project, there was further extensive correspondence between FCO and ECGD up to and beyond 1 February 2000. This correspondence primarily concerned how to respond to the many letters received by Departments, following the Secretary of State's announcement.


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