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UK government embroiled in row over financial support for Ilisu

The International Development Committee in the UK has expressed its astonishment that the government is considering financing the Ilisu dam in Turkey. A furore broke out on 12 July when the Committee released a report saying that the government should not back an application by Balfour Beatty for £220M (US$350M) of export credit guarantees, to cover its part of an international consortium building the dam.

The Committee said that from the outset Ilisu has contravened international standards. It stated that the government was ‘showing a shotgun wedding approach to export credit…that does not bode well’. The cross-party committee of MPs said that it was astonished that the Foreign Office had not considered it necessary to ask questions about the impact of the project on those living in the region.

The UK government insisted that it has considered human rights and that the Committee was ‘plainly wrong’.

Richard Caborn, the trade and industry minister, said that the dam was not a human rights scandal or a threat to peace and that the project would meet all international standards.

‘If Turkey uses the OECD standard on resettlement we will support the project,’ he said speaking on the Channel Four News programme on UK television. ‘If the project does not comply we will not support it.’ Speaking about inferences that the project would affect the Kurdish people, Caborn said that the Kurds had not been treated satisfactorily in the past but this is why the framework within which such projects are developed has changed.

The government will not make a decision about its support for the scheme until the environmental impact report is released.