HC Deb 16 December 1987 vol 124 c1084
8. Mr. Quentin Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest initiatives to remove Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The European Council recently called on the Soviet Union to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by 1988. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reinforced this message when she met Mr. Gorbachev last week.

Mr. Davies

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that although it is encouraging that the Soviet Union has given several signs recently of wishing to adopt a. less menacing posture in the world, it is in direct contradiction to that that it should pursue the subjugation by brutal military force of a neighbouring country? Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that if the representations that he and the Prime Minister are making yield no result he will, in due time, consider with out allies what further support and aid we can give to the Afghan resistance?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The best support that we can give to the case for Afghan self-determination is that represented by the pressure that we and our partners in the European Community and the overwhelming majority of the United Nations have given year after year, pressing for the withdrawal of all Soviet troops, the return of the 5 million refugees with honour and safety, and the restoration of Afghanistan's non-alignment and independence. The Afghan people must be given the right to self-determination. We shall continue to take whatever action seems most appropriate to secure that end.

Mr. Heffer

As someone who attacked the Soviet Union for going into Afghanistan at the time and who has always taken the view since that the sooner Soviet troops left the sooner the people of Afghanistan could have their own freedom, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will consider my view that there should be initiatives to ask the United States of America to remove itself from various parts of the world and not to bolster up reactionary dictatorships, as it does at present?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I must confess that I find it difficult to understand how an hon. Member of the hon. Gentleman's distinction and experience could fall into the trap of equating any other situation with that existing in Afghanistan, which is the source of the world's greatest refugee problem. About 5 million people have been turned out of their homes and 50,000 people have been killed or injured during the past year. That is the most blatant violation of national independence. Afghanistan has seen some of the greatest abuses of human rights that we have ever known. It is not possible to equate any of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman referred with that continuing monstrosity.

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