§ 35. Mr. P. Noel-Baker
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been sent by Her Majesty's Government to the Soviet Note of 16th September requesting the reconvening of the Geneva Conference of 1954 to consider the situation at Laos.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
An interim reply which answered some of the points made by the Soviet Government in their published proposals was sent on 21st September and published on that day. A further reply was made on 9th November. I will circulate both these documents in the OFFICIAL REPORT. AS my hon. Friend told the House on 11th November, we are unable to agree with the Soviet suggestion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The Foreign Secretary said this afternoon that it is our purpose to get a neutral Laos. Can we hope to get that without the co-operation of the Government of Peking? Since that Government have said that they are ready to sit at the table in a renewed conference and to negotiate questions arising about Laos, would not it be wise to start negotiating again with them?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Is it not certain that we cannot get a neutral and stable Laos without the co-operation of the Government of Peking? Is not that the principal point that we ought to consider?
§ Following are the documents:
§ NOTE DELIVERED BY HER MAJESTY'S AMBASSADOR IN MOSCOW TO THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT ON 21ST SEPTEMBER, 1959
§ The United Kingdom Government have carefully considered the Soviet Government's statement of 15th September about the situation in Laos. In that statement the Soviet Government made certain proposals for dealing with the situation which has developed in Laos.1146
§ As regards those proposals the United Kingdom Government do not propose to comment in substance at the present time. The Security Council of the United Nations is seized of the question and has established a Sub-Committee to make enquiries and to report to it. Once that report has been received, it will be easier to decide how the matter should be dealt with and the Security Council will no doubt at that stage consider any proposals which may be put forward.
§ Meanwhile, however, the United Kingdom Government cannot let pass without comment some of the statements made by the Soviet Government which are both legally and factually incorrect
- (a) Article 29 of the United Nations Charter, which is in the section headed "Procedure", lays down that the Security Council may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions. The decision to set up a Sub-Committee of the Security Council was taken under this Article. The Soviet Government are therefore incorrect in saying that the unanimity rule ought to apply in this case. As regards the San Francisco Declaration, part 1, paragraph 2, of the Declaration states that the Council will, by the vote of any seven of its members, "establish such bodies and agencies as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions". There can consequently be no doubt that the Sub-Committee, with terms of reference as defined in the Resolution of the Security Council of which the Soviet Union complain, was correctly established by a procedural decision. A study of the record of what was said in the Security Council by the United Kingdom representative during the consideration of the Corfu Channel Case in 1947 and the Czechoslovak Question in 1948 will show that the United Kingdom representative has in the past cogently and consistently argued on the same lines as those followed by Sir Pierson Dixon in the Security Council on 7th September. Her Majesty's Government greatly regret that the Soviet representative found it necessary to cast the only dissenting vote.
- (b) The United Kingdom Government's decision to join in proposing the establishment of a Sub-Committee to make enquiries into the facts in regard to Laos was entirely consistent with the views expressed to the Soviet Government in discussion between the two Governments, as representatives of the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954, during the period immediately before the Laotian Government's decision to appeal to the United Nations. As the Soviet Government will recall, the United Kingdom Government had proposed that the two Governments should request the Secretary General of the United Nations to send a fact-finder to Laos. They had hoped that this would be in accordance with the wishes of the Soviet Government who had been maintaining, as one of the principal reasons why the International Commission should return to Laos, that it was necessary for the Co-Chairmen to receive an impartial statement of the facts. Unfortunately, however, the Soviet Government did not accept this proposal. It is also to be regretted that they should have
1147 opposed the Security Council's desire to establish the facts by the appointment of a Sub-Committee. The United Kingdom Government do not understand how the Soviet Government can maintain that the Laotian Government had no right to appeal to the United Nations or that a discussion of the question in the Security Council was a violation of the United Nations Charter. Every member of the United Nations has the right to refer its case to the Security Council, if it considers that its independence and territorial integrity are threatened by interference from outside.
- (c) The United Kingdom Government take exception to the Soviet Government's suggestion that their action in putting forward the resolution of the Security Council is an attempt to poison the international atmosphere at the present time. In the view of Her Majesty's Government the Laotian Government in their communications to the United Nations made out a prima facie case that North Vietnam is interfering in their affairs in contravention of Paragraph 12 of the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference. In the United Kingdom Government's view they would have been failing in their duty as members of the Security Council if they had not supported the inclusion of an item on the agenda. Having taken this position the Security Council could hardly have done less, as a first step, than to assure itself that it was in possession of the necessary facts.
- (d) The United Kingdom Government have always shared the Soviet Government's desire to see that the Geneva Settlement is fully observed. In their notes of 7th April and 9th June the United Kingdom Government have set out at length the facts of what occurred in Laos during that period and have shown in detail how the Soviet accusations against the Laotian Government of violations of the Geneva agreements were unjustified. Since then the situation has grown worse. At the end of June and at the beginning of July the propaganda of the North Vietnamese authorities began to speak of the existence of civil war in Laos. No fighting, however, was taking place. Between 16th July and the end of the month however it became clear that the Pathet Lao, with the support and assistance of the North Vietnamese authorities, had decided to try to create the "Civil War" of which they had been talking. It is these actions on the part of the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese authorities which have created the present situation in Laos and not the Laotian Government, who, as they have repeatedly stated, only desire to be left alone in peace.
§ NOTE GIVEN TO THE SOVIET AMBASSADOR IN LONDON ON 9TH NOVEMBER, 1959
§ Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to His Excellency the Soviet Ambassador, and has the honour to refer to the Note delivered to the Soviet Government on 21st September by Her Majesty's Embassy in Moscow concerning the Soviet Government's proposal for a new Geneva Conference on Laos. In that Note it was stated that the United Kingdom 1148 Government did not propose to comment in substance at that time; that the Security Council was seized of the question and had established a sub-committee to make inquiries and to report to it; and that once that report had been received the Security Council would no doubt consider any proposals which might be put forward.
§ The United Kingdom Government have now received the report of the Security Council Sub-Committee, and they therefore wish to explain to the Soviet Government their attitude towards the Soviet Government's proposal for a new Geneva Conference to which the International Commission for Supervision and Control for Laos would report. They wish first to stress that the United Kingdom Government wish to co-operate with the Soviet Government in maintaining the Geneva Settlement. There is, however, more than one way of doing this, and the United Kingdom Government are unable to agree with the Soviet proposal for the following reasons:
- (a) An integral part of the Soviet proposal seems to be that the International Commission should re-convene. As the United Kingdom Government have repeatedly explained to the Soviet Government, they are not willing to try to impose the International Commission on the Laotian Government who are unwilling to agree that it should re-convene. The United Kingdom Government do not consider that the International Commission is indispensable to the maintenance of the Geneva Settlement. What is essential is that both sides should observe their obligations under that Settlement.
- (b) The matters about which the Laotian Government complain, i.e. interference by North Viet Nam in Laotian affairs and encouragement by North Viet Nam of the rebellion in Laos, though they are, it is true, in violation of the Geneva Settlement, are also contrary to the United Nations Charter. In these circumstances, Laos has exercised its undoubted right to bring the question before the United Nations and the United Nations is seized of it. In the United Kingdom Government's view, there is no reason why the United Nations should not deal with it or why it should abdicate its competence in favour of a new Geneva Conference.
- (c) United Nations action will not in any way undermine the Geneva Settlement. In the United Kingdom Government's view, both sides should observe their obligations under that Settlement. They consider that United Nations action to deal with the problem of Laos should contribute to those obligations being observed and will, therefore, rather than undermining the Geneva Settlement, assist in seeing that it is maintained.
§ There would be no problem in Laos if the North Viet Namese authorities were to cease their encouragement and assistance to the Pathet Lao rebels and if the latter were to end the rebellion and to act in accordance with Laotian law. The United Kingdom Government hope that all concerned, including the Soviet Government, will use their influence to see that the Geneva Settlement is observed and, in particular, that the rebellion is brought to an end. This would make a far more certain contribution to peace than the holding of a new Geneva Conference.