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During the next few weeks as I understand it, the relationship between the European Union and Turkey will be discussed and probably determined. It is my fervent hope that the European Union leaders will decide to start meaningful accession negotiations and that the Turkish Government, for their part, will accept monitoring and ensure that the reforms which have been started in their country will endure and be enlarged.
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In these circumstances, the position of the European Union in the whole area is likely to be enhanced. If, however, Turkey, despite its acceptance of these terms, was rejected, the European Union could suffer inestimable damage, not only in the Middle East, but also much further than that.
The Copenhagen membership criteria, which have been referred toin particular, a working market economy; the ability to obey the rules of the single market; the acceptance of the acquis communautairemust be adhered to. That means that democracy and human rights, which Copenhagen underlines, have undoubtedly been effected in Turkey, althoughand I would emphasise itmuch remains to be done. But a worthwhile start has been made, and there is real hope that it will continue. It is particularly significant with regard to the military position. Even before negotiations have begun, political and legal improvements have taken place in Turkey.
Of course, real difficulties remain to be confronted. Turkey is a Muslim country. By the time its entry into the European Union is contemplated, it will have a populationlargely a Muslim onelarger than that of any other country in the European Union. It could be a real asset for the European Union. But, on the other hand, its membership of the EU could set off new tensions in the Middle East. Despite thatand it is still my belief that solutions have to be foundthe outlook is rather rosier than might have been suggested a few months ago.
There can be little doubt that the mere possibility of Turkey's membership of the European Union is likely to have a profound influence on the Middle East. In spite of its largely Muslim population, Turkey enjoys good relations with Israel and the United States, without in any way being regarded as a soft touch. It has been much more emollient over Cyprus than was the case in earlier times. At the same time, it has satisfactory relations with most, if not all, Arab states. That puts Turkey in an almost unique position in the Middle East. Most importantly, it has of late established a rapprochement with Greece. That is of maximum importance.
Turkey lies between Europe and Asia. That, too, could be of the utmost importance to the European Union, especially because, for the first time, a largely Muslim, non-Arab population, would come within its framework. All that could provide a vital boost for the Israel-Palestine peace processvital in respect of creating two states that are prepared to recognise each other's right to exist. That is the only solution which, in my view, has any plausibility.
Iran represents a huge problem, too, and Turkey is not alone in that regardespecially in relation to the possible development of its nuclear programme, which mirrors those particular difficulties. That has been denied in the press over the past few days, and I refer to it only as a possible development. Some reports of recent times suggest a happier outcomeand I hope that that will be the case. It would be short-sighted to overlook Turkey's potential influence over Iran. Together with the
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European Union, Turkey could seek to persuade Iran to observe the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Certainly that pressure could be rather more rewarding than the US threats of surgical strikes and military force against Iran. Of course, Turkey may have to threaten economic sanctions against Iran if she rejects that eminently sensible strategy. I hope that the situation will not come to that.
Syria desperately needs trade and investment from the European Union, but that is incompatible with her support for certain Palestinian groups who vow the destruction of Israel, and a Syria which yearns for weapons of mass destruction. In resisting these pressures Turkey could be a salient player. Already, as a member of NATO and the Council of Europe and in Washington, Turkey could play a decisive role in so many ways. The incentive of European Union membership has already had a significant effect on internal Turkish policies. Minority groups have benefited; political prisoners have been released; the political role of the military has substantially declined; the death penalty has been abolished; there is greater freedom of expression and reform of the judiciary has been effected. All this is likely to burgeon in the future, especially if the European Union continues to focus on these and similar changes.
I am not saying for one moment that all these consequences will inevitably occur, but it is certainly worth trying to achieve them. After all, Turkish membership of the European Union will not happen tomorrow. It will take at least 10 or more years of patient negotiation. Turkey will have to demonstrate actions regarding the Middle East and the European Union. In that regard Turkey must do whatever she can to establish her bona fides as a potential European Union member. She must do what she can also, albeit in a quiet, diplomatic way, to stop the Americans calling loudly for Turkey's entry to the European Union because it is none of their business.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, what a wonderful kaleidoscope of views and ideas we have heard expressed by numerous new and varied voices, but somehow I have rather lost the plot. I assume that we are talking about Britain's role in the world or the world's role for Britain. When I look upon the "Come Dancing" team on the Front Bench of the Labour Party I realise how short they are of material, of knowledge and of information. However, they do a remarkable job with speed, charm, silver voices and golden hairit is perfect.
One of my mentors said that everything should be quintessimal. If you want to think for one year, you must look five years backwards; if you want a five-year plan, you must look 25 years backwards; if you want a 10-year plan, you must look 50 years backwards and so on. That leads us to the generation game. "Generation" applies not only to people, but to events, activity andbelieve it
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or notdefence equipment. That goes from first generation, through the second and third to the fourth. We are now on the eighth or ninth generation of Apaches. Let us try to see whether we can look backwards. I do so because, in general, all of us have seven ages of man or perhaps three generations, one when we do not know what is happening, with the last one when we think that we did.
I will begin a couple of generations ago for me. I joined HMS "Theseus" for naval training as a young boy, to see whether the Navy would accept me. We were 44,000 tonnes and an aircraft carrier but, within a week of my joining, we ceased to be an aircraft carrier and became a helicopter base for the Royal Marines. I am afraid that I always looked down on the Royal Marines, as anyone of the traditional Navy did; it did not mean that they did not do a good job. We were flying on and off in helicoptersWhirlwinds, I thinkplanning for Suez.
I learnt one thing then; I had my bell-bottoms, and I learnt how to press them. My theme today will be the "immortal memory". As noble Lords will know well, we press our bell-bottoms with a number of creases that complies with Nelson's victories. In a few weeks' time, we will be into the year of the immortal memory. I wish to take us back a little further. We had helicopters, which were great new toys. We had aircraft carriers that ceased to be used as aircraft carriers and off we went to Suez. Then I joined the Navy proper and was told that I would go out there before very long but, of course, we were not going to be east of Suez any morewe had terrorist activities out there. Then we had terrorism in Kenya; in my case, it was in Cyprus, then Malaya and Aden. Those were relatively new activities that seem to replicate what we are talking about today.
I remind myself that, a little while ago, I tried to take noble Lords back a hundred years and advise them of the punitive raids that we made on evil emirs or bad fellows around the world. They were led by corporals in some cases, or sergeants or officers. Camels were shot. We later had Islandwana, the Mahdi in Khartoum and other battles. I want to say to myself, "These days we will have two new aircraft carriers. We weren't going to have any not so long ago. They're going to be jolly good". One aircraft carrier on its own needs a hell of a lot of ships to protect it, and two aircraft carriers form such a major battle group that even the United States would be frightened to invade us.
But are the aircraft carriers a 20-year plan? Where is the 20-year plan? That is what we need; we need to think forward. Although £6 billion may be being spent on equipment and £10 billion on people, we want to know what the equipment is for and what our role is. I thought that I would be saying today that we need more people on the ground, and asking where we would get them. I tried to find out what the old regiments and their battle honours were. I am not a pongo so I do not really understand the sorts of flags that they fly, although I can still do Morse code and recognise the flags of all nations.
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I found to my surprise that the task was quite difficult, but I would like to go back to the immortal memory and the Napoleonic wars, and to the regiments and corps that we have had since. They fell into many groups. Great Britain had 479 regiments or corps. They had wonderful names. I could never understand why the 15th and 16th regiments did not merge but the 17th and 19th did; lots of mergers took place. They fought all around the place. I said in an earlier debate that we should raise more native levies. We had a whole range of regiments and corps of the British Middle East, for example. There were 65 of them. There were something like 160 colonial and European corps and regiments. I would like to read all their battle honours, but I just want to give some of the evocative names that come up; I shall have to put on my glasses and I do not want to offend people.
Let us look at the core of the British Middle East. We had the Hadrimi Bedouin Legion, the Shendi Horse, the Wahidi Tribal Guards, the Zion Mule Corps, the Assyrian Levies andyour Lordships will remember it wellPopski's Private Army.
On the European side, we had the Helvetic Legion, the Hompesch Chasseurs, the Ionian Islands Volunteer Militias, Brodericks Regiment of Albanians, the Royal Corsican Rangers and the Pfaffenhofen League of Germans. We had 36 French regiments, because one of the things we learned from that was that when we both have a common enemy, we have a common force. Such regiments were immigrants. This issue goes back to Napoleonic times, because Napoleon was the evil enemy.
Today, our problem is, regarding the matters under discussion, that we do not seem to have common enemies. Therefore, we find it difficult, unless we can create an enemy, to unite other forces to our command. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, kindly advised me recently, after I asked him what proportion of our forces were abroad, that the figure was roughly 42,000or 20 per cent. By my calculations, looking at the trouble spots, we need approximately 400,000 people in our Armed Forces to cope with anticipated demand. That is a great deal of people. My worry iswhat are they facing?
Bomber Harris thought that he could bomb the hell out of Germany and win the war. The Americans thought that they could bomb the hell out of Iraq and win the war. You cannot do it by bombing. You can do such things only with people on the ground. I remember the days when a bit of kit that could take down a helicopter was the size of a golf bag. Nowadays, you only need a 5-iron behind the kitchen door to have an RPG that can take out anyone. You therefore must have people on the ground.
My worry is this: I believe that we should now rapidly increase, over a 20-year programme, the number of people that we plan to have in the Armed Forces. Let us stick with the commitment that we have for equipment. Let us look at some of the simpler aspects of our forces, and let us remember that they are highly trained. We should also bear in mind that we do not need as many troops as we used to, because modern warfare does not kill as many people on the victor's sidewhen you think how many would have been killed 50 or 100 years ago
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when advancingbut it kills a hell of a lot of the opposition or the enemy, if they are the enemy. I am concerned about how you define an enemy. You can define terrorists. You can say, "You can't have a war on terrorists, they have appeared everywhere. They will be all over the place before long". It is probably a good thing to be a terrorist at the moment. It gives you a few chips of courage.
I conclude by asking a question of the Government. We must accept that the Cabinet and Ministers had no knowledge of Iraq because they were not allowed to go there when sanctions were in force. All the information they got was second or third hand, involved Chinese whispers, misinformation, failure to appreciate the situation and failure to have the knowledge of the past. I asked the Minister if she would mind if I raised a matter again, because I asked a little while ago whether I could have a reply to a Written Question on whether there would be a reply to the 52 ambassadors and high commissioners who wrote regarding Iraq. The Written Answer from the Leader of the House was not insulting, but it said, "I am not going to give you the answer. Read what the Prime Minister said to a Member from Wales when he made a speech to an Italian friend called Berlusconi somewhere in Italy".
So I shall ask the Minister again, because she is in favour of this sort of thing because she is a really good girl. This paper says, "Ignore history at your peril" and is dated 27 April, 2004quite a long time ago. It states:
"The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the Post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive".
But there is also a certain naivety now, because I watch television and the body language of everyone. We have moved from ethical foreign policy to something that is much more exciting. We are going to force democracy upon the Middle East. Can the Minister say which of the Middle East countriesand I was chairman of the Middle East trade committee for six yearsis democratic? I should be very interested to know that, because I do not believe that any of them are.
Finally, let us make a suggestion. Let us bring Israel into this game. Let us have a disarmament conference for the whole Middle East. That would please us no end. Let us back Colin Powell, who is one of the best people in the world, and would gain a lot of support. But, for goodness' sake, remember that we should not be prisoners in our own country, as my noble friend reminded me last night at a dinner. Nor should we make people prisoners in their own countries. We have a role in the world, but we should also think of ourselves.
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