HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc267-8
1. Mr. Radice

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress has been made by the five Western Powers over Namibian independence; and whether he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Richard Luce)

The Foreign Ministers of the five Western Governments met in Rome on 3 May and reiterated their Governments' commitment to an internationally acceptable settlement to the Namibia issue. I am circulating in the Official Report the text of the communiqué issued after that meeting.

Mr. Radice

How does the Minister square the new negotiating position of the contact group with resolution No. 435, particularly the proposed guarantees for the white minority? Is there not a danger of a sell-out to South Africa? Has not the sanctions veto of France, the United States and the United Kingdom at the Security Council seriously weakened the Western Powers' negotiating position vis-a-vis South Africa and alienated the whole of black Africa?

Mr. Luce

I certainly do not believe that the Western five who met in Rome and issued the communiqué can be accused in any way of a sell-out. They reaffirmed that Security Council resolution 435 is a solid basis on which we can proceed to a negotiated settlement, although there are many areas in which we need to strengthen the proposals, which is why the officials of the five are meeting in Washington this week to work out more detailed proposals. I notice that the Labour Party appears to have drifted into supporting the idea of imposing sanctions. I must make our position clear. We have said consistently for the past two years that we do not believe that imposing sanctions is a constructive way to deal with the problem of Namibia. It would not help negotiations; nor would it lead to a settlement.

Mr. Wall

In view of the comparative failure of the earlier five-Power negotiations, is not the proposal of the new American Administration much more likely to be brought to a successful conclusion? Will the Government back it 100 per cent?

Mr. Luce

As I said, the Foreign Ministers of the five Western nations met in Rome, and we have agreed a basis on which to draw up a fresh series of proposals to strengthen the Security Council resolution, which is a solid base but which needs strengthening. That is why we are working hard on the matter.

Mr. Deakins

Is there evidence that the new American Administration have a policy on Namibia different from that of the previous Administration?

Mr. Luce

Following the tour of African States by Mr. Crocker, the Assistant Secretary, African Affairs, the position of the American Administration is as stated in the communiqué. The five Western nations are entirely together on the policy.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Is it not in our interests to have a settlement and elections in Namibia as soon as possible? Will the Minister confirm that, as negotiations are likely to produce results faster than sanctions, the policy being followed is the right one?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are taking the most constructive approach. Had sanctions been imposed, negotiations would have been far more difficult.

Mr. Healey

Does the Minister's reference to M r. Chester Crocker imply that Mr. Crocker has reversed the view that he expressed on his tour of Africa that resolution No. 435 is "dead in the water"? Do the front-line States agree with the five Western Governments' view about what strengthening the resolution implies?

Mr. Luce

The position of the American Government is absolutely clear. They support everything in the communiqué agreed by the five Foreign Ministers in Rome. They therefore regard resolution 435 as a solid base. With regard to strengthening the proposals, an impasse having been reached in Geneva in January, it was clearly necessary to find new ways in which to move forward. In my view, it is only constructive that the five Western nations should work closely together to do that.

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