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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt. I am in profound sympathy with the noble Lord. Can he tell us whether Kurds are treated worse in Turkey than in other countries?

Lord Hylton: Perhaps the noble Earl is referring to Iran or Iraq, both of which have extremely repressive regimes. He must draw his own conclusions.

Against that background I want to tell the story of Med-TV, mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The company is registered in England as Med Broadcasting Limited. It is licensed by the Independent Television Commission and maintains a London office, thus providing some limited employment here. Its main studios are in Belgium and Sweden and it provides television to the Middle East by European satellites. It broadcasts for about nine hours a day, mainly in Kurdish but also in Turkish. Its transmissions are received not only in Turkey but also in Syria, Iraq and Iran; in short, in all the main areas of Kurdish population. Owing to the differences that exist in the Kurdish dialects, great efforts have had to be made to use words that are most widely understood.

When I went to Diyarbakir and Mardin in December 1995 for the Turkish general election, I inquired particularly whether that TV station was being received and what was the public response. I was told that the viewers were positively rapturous. Old people had wept for joy after such a long period of cultural starvation. For all, it was a new window on the world and, what is more, in their own language. The poorest families clubbed together to buy sets and satellite dishes.

Let us see what has been the response of Turkey to something which most people would consider a desirable development in international communications. Turkey first tried to have the company's British licence revoked. The Independent Television Commission quite properly refused. Turkey then tried to put pressure on Mr. Major when he was Prime Minister. Between times, it attempted to jam the transmissions of the original European satellite being used. Fortunately, that also was unsuccessful. Last September, the offices of Med-TV in London and in Belgium were simultaneously raided by

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the local police force, acting no doubt at the request of the Turkish Government. Files and computer data were removed but nothing incriminating was found in either case and no charges were brought. In Turkey itself soldiers have many times confiscated dishes and damaged TV sets which they considered to be receiving Med-TV's broadcasts. Another tactic is to cut off a village's electricity supply at peak viewing time.

In November 1996, a director of the company, waiting for a train at Duisburg in Germany, was suddenly and viciously beaten by four men who spoke Turkish among themselves. No one has been arrested for that attack. In June of this year the family of another director living in Sussex was followed and photographed by someone of Turkish appearance. Police protection may therefore yet be needed for persons connected with the company.

Meanwhile, there has been further jamming. INTELSAT cannot apparently be jammed, for some technical reason. But dishes receiving it in Turkey need to be pointed in a particular direction. That enables the police to identify them quite easily. For that reason, the company had begun experimenting with broadcasts from EUTELSAT, a different satellite system, which would not suffer from the same problem.

By 2 p.m. on 1st July jamming started, thought to come from Turkey. EUTELSAT operators complained to Turkey, pointing out that broadcasts were suffering interruption, which included and affected some Romanian language services. The Romanian service, I am glad to say, is now free from interference but the Kurdish service is still being interrupted.

Will Her Majesty's Government inform Turkey that jamming of international TV transmissions is a serious violation of recognised freedoms of expression? It is entirely unacceptable and almost certainly violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Helsinki conventions of 1979, to which Turkey was a party. Will Her Majesty's Government make clear that attacks on, and harassment of, Med-TV personnel will not be tolerated? Will they also consult with the German, Belgian and any other relevant European governments on that issue and on the issue of jamming?

I should like to ask another important question. Do Her Majesty's Government agree with the Geopolitical Narcotics Monitor which stated that 70 per cent. of illegal drugs entering Europe come through Turkey? Can they confirm the view of Mr. Tom Sackville who said, when still a Home Office Minister, that 80 per cent. of the heroin seized in Britain came via Turkey? He also alleged that official Turkish leaks caused some anti-drug operations to fail. What is being done about that unsatisfactory situation?

Turkey itself has serious problems. Despite a 6 per cent. growth rate, inflation has been running and still runs at 80 per cent. per year. Debt is high with interest absorbing over 70 per cent. of tax revenues. The currency depreciates steadily. The prime cause is over-large military spending and the cost of war in the east and south-east. I suggest that attention will have to

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be paid to the known views of TUSIAD, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association, and indeed to those of the Kurdistan parliament in exile.

In my view, Turkey should one day become a full member of the European Union. The European Union should state clearly that minor cosmetic improvements in human rights such as we have seen will not be enough. The key lies in a political solution to the Kurdish question and to the 13-year long war. That alone will end the emergency, demilitarise the country, make possible the rule of law and remove the overall control exerted by the national security council. Until those things happen, the prospects for human rights are bleak. The European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE can all help. But Turkey needs to find its own Gorbachev. Friends of Turkey should all help her to find such a leader.

The Marquess of Tweeddale: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he say why he considers it desirable that Turkey should join the European Community?

Lord Hylton: My Lords, Turkey is our neighbour. It has been our partner in NATO for many years. There is a large population of Turks living in Europe, particularly in Germany. I do not believe that the two can permanently be separated.

2.29 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for initiating this debate. Anyone who has listened to your Lordships' speeches knows that it is a disturbing debate--disturbing because there is little doubt that Turkey's human rights record does not measure up to internationally acceptable standards. Indeed, for many years now the international community has made its position clear: that the Turkish Government must increase their efforts to stamp out human rights abuses with lasting and meaningful legislation and with respect for internationally acceptable human rights norms.

There have been recent glimmers of hope that the Turkish Government will act responsibly, not least as a result of the customs union agreement signed with Turkey in December 1995. The agreement aimed to bring Turkey further into alignment with its trading partners of the West and encourage Turkey to develop closer working partnerships with the European Union. The agreement also proposed a substantial aid programme for Turkey in return for commitments that progress would be made on the key issues of democracy and human rights.

In October 1996 the European Community reported back on the progress made as a result of that agreement. Although some positive steps have been taken, particularly with reference to trade in the industrial sector, the longed for progress on human rights issues had not taken place. When the customs union agreement was signed, Turkey committed itself to the aspirations of the OSCE but has repeatedly failed to comply with that organisation's guidelines.

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I should like to address Turkey's human rights record and to look at the ways in which it falls far short of our hopes and desires. As your Lordships will be aware, and as was so admirably outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, since 1984 the Turkish Government and their military have been engaged in confrontation with armed guerillas of the PKK in the south-east of the country where the Kurds form the majority of the population. The PKK has an estimated strength of some 10,000, largely operating from bases outside its border, not least Syria and the Lebanon. The south-east of Turkey remains under martial law and more than 10,500 people have died in the 12 years of warfare.

This is sadly not a straightforward battle of good versus evil. Criticism has been levelled at both sides of this bloody conflict. While the Turkish army has on occasions violently opposed the PKK, the PKK has attempted to gain the Kurdish population's support sometimes by intimidating and executing those who oppose it. Their actions have, nevertheless, been generally unsuccessful.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 Turkish troops are stationed in the south-east of the country. In May this year they crossed over the border into northern Iraq in their quest against the Kurdish people. The ensuing violence in Erbil has already been reported to this House in very distressing terms by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on another occasion, and we all appreciate the scale of the alleged atrocities. The south-eastern region of Turkey is now completely out of bounds to foreigners lest they be caught in crossfire. Four tourists, including a Briton, died in bomb attacks in Marmaris and Istanbul in 1994. The PKK has made repeated threats against tourists, most recently in June this year. As your Lordships will know, several western tourists were kidnapped by the PKK in the summers of 1993, 1994, 1995 and as recently as September of last year.

Inevitably, there is some sympathy for the Turkish Government in having to deal with what is perceived by some as a violent, uncompromising and bloodthirsty opponent. But meeting violence with violence only escalates the bloodlust. It is incumbent on responsible governments to take the high ground, to set an example and ultimately to ensure that the basic human rights of all those affected should be upheld.

The United Kingdom has a particular understanding of the situation, dealing as it does and must with the problems faced in Northern Ireland. In the words of the former Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind:

    "We know that the fight against terrorism can only ultimately be successful if it recognises the human rights and the legitimate concerns of the people who are caught up in it".

It is only in these circumstances that government can be respected by its people and prove worthy of the powers placed upon it.

It is true to say that in recent years there has been some liberalisation of the application of Article 8 of Turkey's anti-terrorism law which seeks to prevent

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freedom of expression, although the law itself has not been altered and, as we have heard today in this debate, continues to be used to prosecute people for their beliefs. Insufficient action has been taken against the torture and ill treatment of prisoners. Disappearances and extra-judicial executions still take place. Access to Turkish prisons on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross has been denied repeatedly since 1983. There are reports of pressures placed on non-governmental organisations suspected of actively supporting the Kurdish cause.

The excellent report and work undertaken by Amnesty International elaborates on that point. It made a series of important recommendations. I very much hope that they will be considered very carefully by the Government and indeed by everyone to whom they were addressed, not least by members of the Council of Europe and UN member states. To the European Union member states Amnesty International said that it sought to sustain close monitoring of freedom of expression in Turkey, as recommended by the European Parliament in its approval of the 1995 customs union, and use all means at their disposal to encourage the Government of Turkey to effect genuine reform of those laws under which prisoners of conscience are held.

There have been reports that the Turkish Government have instituted proceedings in a number of cases against those accused of torture, but as long as the practices that both I and more ably Amnesty International have outlined continue it is incumbent on all of us, from whichever side of the House, to highlight them.

There is no doubt that Turkey needs to reform her policy on human rights. This is imperative not only for peace and prosperity within her own borders; it is of international concern. Turkey is a strategically important and valued member of NATO. Her territories span the great divides of the world: to the north the fledgling democracies of the former Soviet Union; to the east the volatile areas of the Middle East; to the south the occasionally turbulent North African countries and to the west, Europe.

We need to encourage her stability and prosperity. I also share with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the view that we look forward to the day when she may join us in the European Community. Her accession would help to seal peace and security in a key entrepot of the world. In view of that wider hope, NATO has actively supported her military. Over the years it has supplied her with 500 combat aircraft, 500 combat helicopters, 5,000 tanks and thousands of artillery weapons, mortars, machine guns and assault rifles. But it is absolutely essential and right that we seek to ensure that those weapons are not put to ill-use either in Northern Cyprus or in the southeast of Turkey itself. It is a delicate balance between the need for global peace and the needs of the Turkish citizens. The lasting solution is a sea change in attitude from the Turkish Government towards human rights abuses.

So how is such a sea change to be delivered? I am in no doubt about it. It will only come if we continue to work closely with Turkey. We should persist with the customs union agreement, which admirably reflected the

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view that Europe should seek to influence the domestic policy of her neighbours by holding out the carrot of stronger trading ties and financial assistance. An antagonistic approach in this instance will only lead to Turkish isolation, which in turn may force her to look for other allies in less peaceful and stable regions of the world.

I am aware of the Government's admirable policy to place human rights at the core of their foreign affairs policy, a commitment which was reinforced only yesterday by the Foreign Secretary. But I would be interested to know whether such a policy will mean stronger action on behalf of the Government towards the perpetrators of human rights abuses. Will they attempt to impose greater penalties on the countries concerned?

I do not see a more antagonistic approach to other governments necessarily securing the desired response. Far from it. I believe that it could drive them further away from our aspirations and those of the international community. In Turkey's case that could have immeasurable consequences for Cyprus, NATO, Europe and peace in the eastern Mediterranean.

In conclusion, while I have concentrated my remarks on the issues of Turkey, particularly the human rights issues relating to that country, this debate, as noble Lords have mentioned, fortuitously coincides with the announcement of the Government's foreign policy and the place that human rights will have within that foreign policy. On 12th May, announcing the mission statement, the Foreign Secretary put,

    "human rights at the heart of our foreign policy".

By yesterday in the Locarno Room of the Foreign Office he had moved discernibly to "the centre". There is only one centre so it necessarily displaces other priorities in its wake. He said that the fact that we are witnesses in our sitting rooms to these events requires us to take responsibility for our reaction to such gross breaches of human rights. Many of the Foreign Secretary's words yesterday would have been welcomed by noble Lords on all sides of the House. But East Timor has provided an opportunity to note the difference between rhetoric and action. There will be many others. The gap between the rhetoric and the actions of this Government should and will be constantly examined from all sides of this House. However good the intentions, at its widest the gap between rhetoric and action can best be defined as hypocrisy; at its narrowest the gap will represent a breach of faith.

I end by posing two general questions in this context. Given the new human rights policy of the Foreign Office, by how much further does the level of human rights atrocities in any country with whom we trade have to deteriorate before the Government impose trade sanctions? If the Government are not considering the implementation of trade sanctions, how will they reconcile the inherent tension between a policy of dialogue together with non-isolation of a country on the one hand and its human-rights foreign policy approach

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on the other? Given the current Government's new foreign policy objective, I believe that it is right to put these key questions to the Government in the context of the Starred Questions and debates that we have had so far this Session--for example, those relating to Burma, the Sudan, Indonesia and, through a question of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, to the Minister today, Turkey.

2.41 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for raising this Question today. I am sure that all noble Lords are very much aware of his dedicated work in the field of human rights. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to his ceaseless efforts to raise the profile of debate in this vitally important area. For him, as for many others, Turkey has been a particular focus, and rightly so. In Turkey there are obvious problems and clear opportunities to put those problems right.

As my noble friend Lord Rea remarked, only yesterday my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made a speech on human rights issues. I shall not repeat today what he said, but I echo the spirit of his words. Human rights are fundamental to this Government's foreign policy objectives. That is not a promise to preach to the world on how other countries can improve themselves. To do so would be both arrogant and counter-productive. I mean that respect for the rights of individuals should run as a thread through all our deliberations and contacts with the world at large, and Turkey is no exception.

Many noble Lords have raised specific issues and a number of differing approaches have been suggested. I shall try to address as many points as I can. Initially, I shall examine why the Government regard Turkey as an important interest to Britain and to Europe. Much of Turkey's significance lies in the fact that it is itself a part of Europe. Successive Turkish governments have restated their commitment to establishing a European identity for Turkey. Turkey is a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe. It aspires to membership of the European Union. The customs union with Europe, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, is a concrete indication of Turkey's position in the European home. It has its imperfections; it has its critics, many of them in this House.

Of course, Turkey is also a long-standing NATO ally. Its importance to the security of the alliance has not diminished since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Geopolitically, Turkey occupies a crucial position on the threshold of a region of tension and uncertainty. It has ties with the Middle East, the Islamic world, the Caucasus and central Asia. Its tradition of secular democracy in a predominantly Moslem country is an achievement we should not undervalue.

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And yet, as all noble Lords have pointed out, Turkey's human rights record remains poor. I share your Lordships' concerns expressed here today about reports of torture, abuse, unwarranted detentions and "disappearances". There can be no excuses for extra-judicial killings or intimidation of those carrying out their professions, such as journalists or lawyers. Indeed, it is incumbent upon those who regard Turkey as a friend not to remain silent in the face of clear breaches of basic rights and freedoms. I believe that the Government of Turkey understand that there will remain serious obstacles in the way of progress towards a closer relationship with Europe while Turkey remains so far short of European standards in human rights. Our challenge will be how to help Turkey reach those standards. We have a duty not just to criticise, but, where we can, to help.

The new Government in Turkey have pledged themselves to the improvement of human rights in the programme they announced two weeks ago. We welcome that commitment. It follows modest progress on reform under the previous administration. But announcements will not be enough. There will need to be a thorough reappraisal of the administration of justice in Turkey: reductions in the periods of detention of suspects; a hard look at the workings of the state security courts; and effective enablement of the rights of freedom of expression, before we can say that there has been a sea change in Turkey's behaviour.

Turkey has duties and obligations under the international treaties to which it is signatory, as noble Lords have mentioned. It should not be surprised if other signatories expect it to conform to those treaties in word and deed. Without significant movement towards European standards, Turkey will continue to be embarrassed and discomfited by the attention of her friends and allies in the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

We were glad to see the adjustments that the previous Turkish government were able to make in this area. I am encouraged by the new Government's announcement earlier this week of the amnesty to all journalists currently imprisoned for "crimes of expression". This is a welcome and long-overdue reform. I hope, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will have welcomed the release, albeit on bail, of Mr. Sanar Yurdatapan, on whose behalf he has campaigned so vigorously.

But, as our debate today has demonstrated, these are but drops in a large pool. There is a Turkish expression which runs

    "Drop by drop, the lake forms".

I do not believe that in the field of human rights either Turkey or her friends have time for such an unpredictable meterological progression.

The problems of the Kurdish minority have rightly featured prominently in today's debate, and I shall discuss them in more detail later. But the issue of terrorism will not alas distance itself far from those

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considerations. There is no doubt that Turkey faces a serious threat from the terrorism of the PKK. Sadly, we recognise that threat. Britain itself has had to cope with terrorism for too long not to. We understand the difficulties in tackling that threat. But we also know that military actions can never provide the whole solution to the problem. We do not question Turkey's territorial integrity; there should be no ambiguity on the point. But Turkey must look at the legitimate concerns of its Kurdish population in terms of housing, employment, social and healthcare, and education.

Those deep-rooted problems must be seriously addressed. Only then can a credible long-term stability return to the troubled provinces of the south-east. Only that can effectively undermine support for the terrorists. Heavy-handed and indiscriminate suppression are not the answer. For us, condemnation alone will not promote improvement. If we can approach the problems that Turkey faces in a mood of support and co-operation, we will get further quicker than through direct confrontation. I do not say this as an apologist for the abuses that we have heard about today. I say this as a realistic way to try to make a difference. Through firm action in international fora with our allies, and through supportive educational and vocational training exchanges, we can help to bring about an improvement in the understanding of human rights issues. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday in his speech on human rights:

    "Wherever possible, our approach should be to encourage improved standards through dialogue".

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was kind enough to give me notice of the specific questions which he intended to raise today. I shall try to address some of them, although the list was long. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not answer all his questions but I shall write to him.

The menu for change about which we have heard is full. The question for us is how best to encourage the Turkish authorities to digest such a menu. I believe that for many people there is an understanding that in Turkey there is now an appetite for change. We will persist in urging on Turkey the advantages of welcoming objective observers to help clarify where problems lie; for example, in the displacement and other hardships of the people of south-east Turkey and in the functioning of Turkey's democratic institutions and electoral systems.

That applies to individual observers. As regards the specific point made by the noble Lord, we will again take up with the Turkish authorities their prohibition of certain individuals, including the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. That applies, too, to representatives of the international organisations mentioned by many noble Lords today; for instance, the UN rapporteurs, the OSCE and the ICRC. In all cases, the message must be that the involvement of observers and experts is important. Indeed, it is vital. The openness and transparency which they can bring to addressing the problems can help towards solutions. They are not an unwelcome distraction.

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The noble Lord spoke movingly of the torture of children. Sadly, we are indeed aware of reports that children have been the subject of torture. Let there be no doubt that Her Majesty's Government condemn any torture. We welcome the decision earlier this year to reduce the maximum detention periods for people held in custody. That may help, but it is not enough. Only by full co-operation will the international bodies responsible for monitoring and investigating such allegations can Turkey really convince the international community that it has acted to stamp out the scourge of torture in that country.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the question of the review in September of the OSCE code of conduct on the politico-military aspects of security. We believe that the seminar will provide an excellent forum to examine democratic controls on armed forces. As a signatory state, we expect Turkey to meet her obligations under the code and we will work with our partners to ensure adherence to all OSCE commitments.

The noble Lord also referred to the code of conduct and the chapter on the human dimension which were both attached to the Budapest Declaration of the OSCE of December 1994. The code of conduct focuses on politico-military aspects of security and standards for democratic control under armed forces and the protection of civilians. It does not have an enforcement procedure and is regarded as politically but not legally binding. Paragraphs 34 to 37 of the code refer to respect for commitment under the international law and, in particular, the Hague and Geneva conventions dealing with the laws of war.

The chapter on the human dimension focuses on human rights questions. Under that, it is open to governments or NGOs to ask the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to refer human rights questions to the chairman in office of the OSCE.

The noble Lord referred also to two specific cases--the Akduvar case and the Aksoy case. They went against Turkey in the European Court of Human Rights. The British Government regard those as important test cases in relation to Turkey's compliance with European human rights standards. We expect Turkey to meet the requirements set out by the court. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the House that we have reiterated that in the recent review in Strasbourg.

A number of noble Lords raised the question of the Kurdish minority. The conflict in south-east Turkey between the Turkish security forces and the PKK indeed casts a dark cloud over the security and livelihood of the region's people. But of course, a state of conflict or emergency must not be made into a pretext for a denial of basic freedoms and rights. That cannot be the way to win the battle for peace and prosperity in the region. Village clearances, as have been described, forcing large-scale relocation of huge numbers of people, have

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clearly been a part of the Turkish authority's strategy and have not brought solutions. They have compounded the problems in many cases, increasing the discontent which feeds the appeal of violence and terrorism.

But in recent months we have seen signals of a growing awareness in Turkey that the relentless pursuit of a military solution will not provide the answer. Significantly, Turkish business leaders have clearly identified the need for economic regeneration in the region. They have called for increased investment there. It is welcome too that some senior figures in the Turkish military establishment have begun to speak publicly about the need for a humanitarian and developmental dimension to address the problems of the south east. We shall continue actively to encourage words such as those to be followed by actions.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, raised the problem of the deterioration in public heath and the need for a permanent delegation from the International Red Cross. The Government will indeed encourage the Turkish Government to understand that international organisations such as the ICRC can help to address the problems which confront the south east of Turkey. We shall continue to press that point with them.

The noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Hylton, referred to the problems concerning Med-TV. Questions about jamming have been raised. We have received no confirmation of the source of the problem. We have been told that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is investigating those incidents. We shall continue to press for information about where the jamming is coming from.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to the reports of the assaults, which were indeed terrible. We are aware that investigation into those alleged criminal activities is under way. I hope that something may come of those investigations and that we can report further to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

The noble Lord asked also about drug trafficking. We know that a large proportion of the heroin entering the UK arrives via Turkey. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed that with his Turkish counterpart when they met earlier this month. Both my right honourable friend and the Turkish foreign minister agreed about the usefulness of enhanced co-operation in that area, both bilaterally and with our European partners.

Several noble Lords have referred to Turkey's EU application. The European Commission has just put forward its Agenda 2000 containing proposals on how to handle further enlargement of the EU. On the question of Turkey's aspiration to join, the Commission endorses the view that Turkey is eligible to join and that its candidacy should be judged on the same criteria as those for other candidates. The Government support that approach.

However, it is clear to us that one criterion on which Turkey falls a long way short is its performance in human rights. Turkey's path to membership must include a thoroughgoing reform in that field.

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I do not believe that anyone listening to this debate believes that the human rights position in Turkey will be improved by isolation or by dissociation. We must work with Turkey, but we must work firmly and insistently through the various international organisations about which so many noble Lords spoke today. During his meeting with the new Turkish foreign minister, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary broached the issue of human rights and asked how we might help. Mr. Cem welcomed our suggestions. There are a number of areas in which we will be looking to take forward practical proposals, such as educational and vocational training programmes and

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seminars for lawyers and barristers to familiarise themselves with the implications of European legislation, human rights awareness training for police officers, and support for advice centres in the field of basic rights and redress.

Those measures will not by themselves be crucial. The fact is that only Turkey and the Turkish people can achieve the changes needed, because it is ultimately their interest which will be most directly served by their improvement. However, we can try to make a difference. The Government are determined to continue to work to that end.

        House adjourned at three o'clock.

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