HC Deb 10 February 1969 vol 777 cc871-3
24. Mr. Hordern

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will convene an international conference to discuss the Nigerian situation.

33. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now convene an international conference to discuss the Nigerian situation.

Mr. Foley

We have always made clear our desire to help in any way we can. We have taken an active part in a number of efforts to try to achieve a settlement, one of which was during the recent Commonwealth conference. Initiatives have also been taken by others, all so far without success. I do not think that this suggestion would bring any of these efforts nearer success.

Mr. Hordern

Is it not clear that the only outcome of the Government's policy will be the continued escalation in the supply of arms to both sides? Therefore, will not the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early meeting with both the French and the Russian Governments so as to stop this terrible aggression?

Mr. Foley

We should be very clear that we cannot dictate the course of events in Nigeria, that we gave up responsibility for Nigeria at the time of granting its independence, and that it will help no one, least of all the Nigerians themselves, if we pretend that we can solve the dispute for them.

Mr. Allaun

Why do not the Government at least attempt to secure a joint ban? Secondly, will the Under-Secretary ascertain the Soviet position? I understand that, whilst opposed to unilateral action, they are prepared to play if others play.

Mr. Foley

There is a further Question on the Order Paper dealing with arms and I should prefer to take that up when that Question is dealt with.

On the question of initiatives, one has to recognise, as U Thant said only last week, that this is a matter for Nigeria and Africa. This is not to say that we in this House and the nation as a whole are not deeply concerned and anxious to do whatever we can, but the fact is that so far we have not been successful, although this does not deter us from continuing our efforts for peace.

Mr. Braine

Bearing in mind the continuing international concern which is widely shared in this country for the plight of civilians in the war-stricken areas, cannot the hon. Gentleman say whether the present position still is that the Federal Nigerian Government are ready to allow daily flights into the Ibo heartland but that Colonel Ojukwu is not?

Mr. Foley

Yes; this is, in fact, the precise position. The need to get relief in quantity, it is clear—and this need will increase over the months—means that daily flights or a surface route must be opened up. So far, on military and stategic grounds, it has not been possible to suggest anything to either side which either would accept.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my hon. Friend consider that while he and other members of the Government constantly say that this is a matter for the Africans to settle, if this war is fought to a finish with a massive supply of arms from the Great Powers it will be an utterly disastrous precedent for Africa as a whole?

Mr. Foley

I would not like to give the impression that nothing is being done. Only last week the French-speaking African States at the Conference in Kinshasa appointed two Heads of State, one to visit Colonel Ojukwu and one to visit General Gowon. They will be reporting back to the Conference of O.A.U. Ministers at the end of the month. The Emperor's Consultative Committee is due to meet at the end of the month.

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