From left to right: Rob Lowe, Gary Kent, Mike Gapes MP, John Slinger, speaking at the KRG Labour Party fringe meeting, 2 October 2012
Manchester, UK - (uk.krg.org) - Expertise and experience in foreign policy were combined with a passionate denunciation of the Assad regime and the need to protect Syrians from his brutal Ba'athist regime at a successful fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Manchester this week.
The meeting, organised by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) UK Representation, attracted over 70 people including diplomats from several countries in the busiest part of the conference.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG High Representative to the UK said, “Representation’s participation at the annual party conferences gives us the opportunity to speak about Kurdistan and Iraq to British decision-makers, and we appreciate the warm welcome we have received at the all party conferences.”
Ms Rahman added, “This year we have brought to the conferences a discussion about intervention and the Kurdish case. While the Kurdish experience with the international community in the past has been mixed, one major lesson is that the decisions of John Major and Tony Blair to intervene saved many lives and built a foundation for stability and security in our region.”
The speakers included Mike Gapes MP, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Robert Lowe of the Middle East Centre, and John Slinger, Chair of Pragmatic Radicalism. The meeting was chaired by Gary Kent, Director of Labour Friends of Iraq.
Gary Kent told the meeting that he had seen massive progress in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq during nine visits over the last few years. The Kurdistan Region is a respected, confident and credible interlocutor and has given important assistance to their fellow Kurds in Syria.
Mike Gapes MP, one of many parliamentary supporters of the KRG campaign which calls on the British Government to formally recognize the Kurdish genocide, expressed his concerns about the enormous security consequences if the international community fails to resolve the situation in Syria.
He said, “The lessons from the Kurdish case are clear, the parallels are so strong and yet we are not acting to provide some sort of security in Syria. This is the most urgent issue on the international agenda. We have a responsibility to protect the people of Syria.”
Robert Lowe, a Middle East expert at the LSE, said, “Compared to Iraqi Kurdistan the threat facing Syrian Kurds at the moment is not as severe as the horrors that the Kurdish people in Iraq have been through. But the Syrian Kurds remain vulnerable. One lesson which is vital to remember is that non-Kurds in the region are not shy of attacking Kurds, this has happened many times in the past. The other lesson is not to ignore the situation.”
John Slinger emphasised the need to act to prevent and punish acts of war crimes and genocide. The international community is legally bound to act by the international law - the United Nations Genocide Convention and the doctrine of the Responsibility To Protect (R2P). Mr Slinger said, “The lesson from Kurdistan is that R2P should and must be enforced where necessary or international law becomes weak and worthless. The act of recognising what happened to the Kurds must go hand-in-hand with the firm belief that we will act to prevent such things happening again.”
The concept of R2P was developed by the international community following the atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia via the UN’s International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) and was formally integrated into the UN’s framework in 2005. The doctrine states that each state has a responsibility to protect (R2P) their own population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The British Government is committed to implementing R2P, and in 2012 supported increased funding of the Joint Office of the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisers for Genocide and Responsibility to Protect.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has also attended the Liberal Democrats Party conference in Brighton last week, and will be hosting a similar fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, next Tuesday 9thOctober, at 5.30pm in the The ICC Hall 8B.