HC Deb 25 January 1978 vol 942 cc1365-9
6. Mr. Brotherton

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

Dr. Owen

The Government, with the full support of the United States Government, are continuing to work for a Rhodesian settlement which will be acceptable to the international community and contribute to peace and prosperity in an independent Zimbabwe.

I shall be meeting Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe, the joint leaders of the Patriotic Front, in Malta on 30th January. I shall be accompanied by Lord Carver and by Ambassador Andrew Young and the United Nations Secretary-General will be represented by General Prem Chand. The object of the talks is to discuss with the leaders of the Patriotic Front the whole range of questions arising from the Anglo-American proposals, particularly the substantive matters on which we have so far had very little discussion with them.

Mr. Brotherton

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how much longer he will use his continued bad offices to try to prevent a settlement between Mr. Smith and the moderates of Rhodesia? How much longer does he propose to prefer the company of murderers to that of moderates?

Dr. Owen

The hon. Member must accept that an internal settlement which excludes one of the leading nationalist groups cannot bring about a ceasefire during the elections or bring peace and stability to a newly independent Zimbabwe, nor would it eliminate the threat to international peace and security. It would, therefore, be most unlikely to be recognised by the Security Council. We are signatories to many Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Grocott

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has the full support of hon. Members on this side of the House in his determination to continue talks with Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo? Will he confirm that it would be ludicrous to have any kind of paper settlement that did not involve the full co-operation of the Patriotic Front, whose forces have forced Smith to the conference table?

Dr. Owen

I have been almost brutally frank with the House about the limitations on the Government's rôle in this matter. I do not delude myself that we can have absolute power. All I can say is that I believe that we must pursue a ceasefire as being the stable way of ensuring an independent Zimbabwe. We have offered, within the framework of the Anglo-American proposals, to administer Rhodesia during a transitional period. We have never administered that territory and it would not be right to administer it unless there were a reasonable guarantee of a ceasefire and a peaceful period during which elections would be held.

Mr. Blaker

Do the Six Principles still apply? Have they been modified?

Dr. Owen

We still stand by the basic principles, but they are much more detailed in the Anglo-American proposals. I hope that we shall be able to elaborate them as I promised following the run of consultations. No one is under any illusion that to negotiate a ceasefire between two forces, neither of which has won or lost, is extremely difficult. This has eluded people in the past. It is right for the British and American Governments to try to achieve that objective.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the nostalgia for the old imperialism that lingers on the Opposition Benches is of no help? Does he agree that certain so-called terrorists such as Nehru, Gandhi and Kenyatta have eventually become world statesmen? Does my right hon. Friend accept that no solution to the Rhodesian problem is possible that does not take into account the aspirations of the Patriotic Front?

Dr. Owen

I agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Churchill

What, Nehru a terrorist?

Dr. Owen

I think that in the past when many people opposed the granting of independence under the British Parliament many people ended up in prison. The mere fact that they were imprisoned by a British Government does not necessarily mean that they were terrorists.

We shall not achieve a settlement if we allow any side to have an absolute veto. If we are to achieve a negotiated ceasefire—which is very difficult—no side can hold to its principles to the exclusion of its readiness to compromise. The problem is that there are a number of parties to the dispute who are unwilling to show the necessary compromise.

Mr. Amery

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the last 24 hours the internal settlement talks in Salisbury have made somewhat dramatic progress? Will he explain to Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe when he meets them in Malta that if there is an internal settlement which is consonant with the Six Principles it would be extremely difficult for the British Government not to recognise the Rhodesian Government which emerged from such a settlement? Does the Secretary of State agree that he would be deluding the leaders of the Patriotic Front if he did not make that clear to them?

Dr. Owen

I agree that we should try to talk about principles. The Government and this House alone can confer legal independence on Rhodesia. We would not do so if a settlement did not accord with the basic principles in the Anglo-American proposals.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the creation of some kind of Bantustan under the aegis of Mr. Smith would not be acceptable to the House, the OAU, the Commonwealth or the United Nations? Does he accept that the only thing that matters is free elections under the auspices of the United Nations?

Dr. Owen

It is necessary for the United Nations to have a crucial rôle in this settlement. It is necessary for it to have both a military peacekeeping réle and a supervisory and observation role to ensure fair elections. Any administration by a British resident Commissioner must be seen to be fair. We cannot ignore the whole weight of international opinion—the Security Council, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Organisation of African Unity.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that for more than a year now I have sought to sustain his efforts to find a peaceful solution in Rhodesia, in spite of some very wide criticism? I am bound to tell him now, and I hope that he will accept, that I fear—and I hope that he will be able to say that it is not so—that the behaviour of Her Majesty's Government does not do honour to us in relation to the efforts currently being made in Rhodesia to find a settlement. Does he understand that, however important the external influences may be, however important the carrying of the United Nations may be, the matter of prime importance is that we here should by every means seek to bring about a peaceful settlement in that country? If there is such a prospect from the discussions now currently in hand in Salisbury, it would be madness indeed for any Government to seek to frustrate them.

Dr. Owen

I will certainly not and nor will the Government frustrate a peaceful settlement there, from whatever source it comes. I believe that we in this House have a responsibility to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, and I have never deviated from that. Since I decided that it was not incumbent upon me to ignore the problem of Rhodesia, and that it was necessary for me to strive for a peaceful settlement, I have been attacked on many sides and by many different people. It goes on day after day. I will not seek—and here I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies)—as he has not sought, to make this a party political issue in the House. I will seek the maximum degree of consensus possible, but not at the risk of departing from the principles laid down in the Anglo-United States initiative.

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