HC Deb 26 June 1985 vol 81 cc913-4
15. Sir Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the United States Government on the possible consequences for East-West relations of instability in Central America.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We regularly discuss the situation in Central America with the United States Administration. We share with the United States the objective of an early return to peace and stability in the region on the basis of the Contadora principles.

Sir Russell Johnston

When the Secretary of State met the President of Mexico, did he express concern about the pressure that the United States is exerting on Nicaragua? Did he, perhaps, suggest that it would have quite the opposite effect and would drive Ortega into the arms of Moscow, rather as happened with Castro? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with that analysis, and, if so, what views is he expressing to the United States Government?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Obviously, because of Mexico's important part in the Contadora process, the position in Central America was one of the subjects discussed with the Mexican President and, indeed, during my talks with the Mexican Foreign Minister when he was here. We were both willing, ready and enthusiastic to endorse the Contadora process, anxious to assert the principles underlying that — that the utmost restraint must be exercised on all sides in Central America—and to draw attention to those aspects of Nicaraguan policy that are causing anxiety in the region.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that, from the point of view of Western Europe, the roles of the United States, with its massive power, and the minor power of Nicaragua—even in Central American terms—are unequal? Has not the role of the United States been almost totally unhelpful in the Contadora process? Indeed, it is almost certainly designed to sabotage that process.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

United States general policy is that it wants to see political reform and stability in Central America through peaceful means. We support that objective. We also urge on Nicaragua the need for it to avoid those actions that are causing anxiety in neighbouring states, which threaten the stability of neighbouring states, and the need for it to engage in a more genuine dialogue with all parties in the country to try to achieve more progress towards true democracy.

Mr. Forman

My right hon. and learned Friend has spoken warmly of Western European support for the Contadora process. What steps might now be available to Western European countries to make progress in that direction?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There is, of course, a continuing aid relationship. We held a conference in San José in September last year. Arrangements are now being discussed for a future meeting of that kind, but not necessarily in the region, together with arrangements for a possible association agreement.

Mr. Healey

May I begin by reciprocating the right hon. and learned Gentleman's courtesy to me and congratulate him on surviving President Reagan's displeasure at his comprehensive critique of the star wars programme?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman point out to the United States Administration that by organising and financing the most inhuman type of terrorism against the citizens of a friendly state he is undermining the attempt, which I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman would support, to organise some international action against terrorism in general?

Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman point out to Mr. Shultz, who has threatened to invade Nicaragua if terrorism fails to overthrow its Government, that such an invasion would create the deepest breach between the United States and its European allies since the war and, moreover, would unite the whole of Latin America in a wave of anti-Yankee imperialism?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

If we are to continue these friendly personal exchanges, I must say that it is strange for the right hon. Gentleman to congratulate me on surviving a speech that I made about two months ago. I congratulate him on having woken up and returned to our proceedings.

Of course, there is a need for restraint on all sides in the light of the present position in Central America. President Reagan recently gave a written assurance to an American Congressman that he is not seeking the military overthrow of the Sandinista Government. The American Government want political reform and stability in Central America through peaceful means. It is important that restraint should be exercised on both sides, and that Nicaragua should undertake an internal political dialogue.