HC Deb 07 December 1977 vol 940 cc1368-72
9. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement regarding Rhodesia.

Dr. Owen

The Rhodesian incursion into Mozambique and the security situation within Rhodesia emphasise the urgent need for a negotiated settlement. The United States Government and ourselves remain convinced that our joint proposals provide the basic framework of a settlement. I shall be discussing the situation with the United States Secretary of State later this week.

Mr. Molloy

In view of President Kaunda's statement yesterday and bearing in mind his fear that if elections take place before independence civil strife will result, will my right hon. Friend make urgent efforts to contact President Kaunda, who has a great contribution to make? Will he assure President Kaunda that his apprehensions will be fully considered at any future conferences?

Dr. Owen

I understand President Kaunda's apprehensions, but I remain absolutely convinced that the only way to settle this dispute between differing nationalist leaders is to have an election. I respect and admire President Kaunda and I much regret that some of my re-remarks have caused ill feeling. That is not reciprocated in any way by me. If he reads my statement he will see that it is a very balanced statement on the issues.

Mr. Amery

Does the Secretary of State recognise that, regrettably or otherwise, the Anglo-American proposals in the form presented to the different African Governments—white and black—are now in ruins? There is now a breathing space. The question is whether he is to double the stakes on a losing game or stand back and see what progress can be made with the Rhodesian régime and those African leaders who are at present in Rhodesia and whether any agreement that they might reach would or would not be acceptable to this House.

Dr. Owen

The issues are complex. There is a choice between continuing the arms fight or negotiating a settlement. The principles that have been laid down will be those on which any negotiated settlement must be based. How that is to be achieved is for history to decide. The Anglo-American initiatives are as they are. I do not believe that they can be written off as easily as the right hon. Gentleman implies.

Mr. Ioan Evans

What action is my right hon. Friend considering with the Americans to bring pressure to bear on South Africa? Does he not agree that South Africa remains the key to the Rhodesia problem and that it would be ended in a week if South Africa stopped supporting the régime?

Dr. Owen

I have never hidden the fact that I believe that South Africa is of great importance, as are the front-line Presidents. South Africa would help us even more than it has done over the last few months if it were convinced that a negotiated settlement would be viable, that there would be fair elections, and that law and order would be maintained. That is an issue on which there are still. regrettably, considerable differences of opinion.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Secretary of State realise that the absolute adherence that he pays to his own initiative can be very counter-productive? Does he further realise that there is every advantage in seeking to bring all those concerned within Rhodesia into negotiations? In all those concerned I include the representatives of the Patriotic Front. Could the Secretary of State not use his influence with them and with President Kaunda to ensure that the genuine initiative that he took with Mr. Smith is the principal vehicle towards a settlement?

Dr. Owen

I have no amour propre or pride of ownership on this issue. The principles of international acceptance and of fair and free elections are fundamental. I do not believe that this can be achieved if negotiations are narrowed down to involve only the nationalist leaders inside Rhodesia. The Patriotic Front must be involved and negotiations must be set in a climate that the world will accept.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you accept that when the Foreign Secretary, or anyone else, speaks in French he should do so properly?

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that the Secretary of State will be glad to come to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) for advice.

11. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about his efforts to achieve a settlement in Rhodesia.

Dr. Owen

I have recently held discussions in London with representatives of Bishop Muzorewa as well as with the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole. Later this month, I hope to see Mr. Nkomo. We shall continue our efforts to achieve a political settlement. Independence must involve a genuine transfer of power to Government representing the majority of the people following free and fair elections based on universal adult suffrage.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In spite of seeing Mr. Nkomo, does the right hon. Gentleman's franglaisian reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) mean that he is beginning to repent his masochistic obsession with the Patriotic Front? If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to help, will he at least refrain from hindering Mr. Smith and other Rhodesian leaders in seeking a solution from the ballaot box rather than through the barrel of a gun? Is there anything wrong with self-determination for Rhodesia?

Dr. Owen

The hon. Gentleman's expression "masochistic obsession" typifies the sort of abuse that seems to come out of everyone on this issue. I am pursuing the path of peace, and I will continue to do so, no matter where the criticism comes from. I shall not stand in the way of any initiative from any quarter which contributes to a genuine peace initiative.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there can be no transfer of power or a settlement of the problems of Zimbabwe without the full-hearted co-operation and consent of the Patriotic Front? Does he further accept that unless and until Her Majesty's Government are willing to take action on oil sanctions in order to prevent oil from reaching that country, there is no possibility of any transfer of power by the Smith régime?

Dr. Owen

As my hon. Friend knows, I have always held the view that the Patriotic Front is a crucial element in any negotiated settlement. It is hard to see any settlement from which it was deliberately excluded being successful. The armed struggle would merely continue. Equally, I make it clear that if there is to be a negotiated settlement there must be compromise. No party to the discussions can hold a total veto over the others if there is to be a peaceful negotiated settlement.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the front-line Presidents that, while they have a legitimate interest in the future of Rhodesia, they cannot expect to have a veto on any settlement that might be acceptable to the black and white communities in Rhodesia?

Dr. Owen

I have said often in this House that no party in this situation can have a veto if we are to get compromise and a negotiated setttlement. The frontline Presidents are of crucial importance, as South Africa is. They are the parties in the situation who can sustain the continued armed struggle from either side. Therefore, we must take full account of their responsible statesmanship. The front-line Presidents have been of crucial help over the last few months, as, indeed, has South Africa. At the moment, because of differences of opinion, we are a long way from reaching the necessary compromise for a settlement.

Mr. Whitehead

When my right hon. Friend sees Mr. Nkomo, will he use his best endeavours to persuade him that the Patriotic Front should commit itself to an election before independence, because that is the best guarantee that it has not only of being able to share in power peacefully in Zimbabwe but also of avoiding civil war?

Dr. Owen

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I shall continue to say what I have said to the Patriotic Front on numerous occasions—that elections hold the key to resolving the issue of who should be president and who should form the Government of the new Zimbabwe. It must be for those who wish to live in a free and independent Zimbabwe to make that choice.

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