HC Deb 30 November 1988 vol 142 cc695-7
6. Mr. Tredinnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the agreement reached in Geneva on a timetable for Cuban troops' withdrawal from Angola.

Mrs. Chalker

We have lent our full support to the United States-led negotiations. We warmly welcome the recent agreement on a timetable for Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola. We urge the parties to move forward to implementation of the United Nations plan for Namibian independence.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this agreement and the reprieve of the Sharpeville Six show that talking forcefully to the South African Government is rather more effective than sanctions or boycotts? Could she tell the House the Government's view about the possibility of a pre-independence conference about Namibia?

Mrs. Chalker

We have always advocated that dialogue and negotiations will produce the best outcomes. The tenacious advocacy of Dr. Chester Crocker and his leadership of the quadripartite talks have brought us to this successful position in respect of the Angola agreement between South Africa, Angola and Cuba. We warmly welcome the news that the Sharpeville Six have been reprieved. Hon. Members will know that we have made repeated representations on behalf of the Six, including the Prime Minister's own appeal. On the question of the future of Namibia, it is right that we should proceed on the United Nations plan, which has been agreed by all, and which will be impartially monitored by the United Nations. There is nothing to be gained and much might be lost if we were now to reopen the principles of the Security Council resolution 435. We welcome the recent direct contacts between SWAPO and leading Namibians.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Hughes, on a point of order.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I could hardly hear the Minister's answer.

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member wish to ask a question?

Mr. Hughes


While I think we all welcome some progress in the discussions in southern Africa about Namibia, and while we welcome in addition to the Sharpeville Six reprieve the release of Harry Gwala and Zephia Mothopeng, may I ask the Minister of State whether she realises that South Africa is already prevaricating on the agreement that it purports to have reached? It is demanding that it should be part of the monitoring operation on Cuban withdrawal. It is suggesting a much later timetable and introducing fresh discussions by saying that UNITA must by involved in some discussions with the Angolan Government before Namibia is free. That has nothing to do with resolution 435 on Namibia. Will the Minister ensure that the utmost pressure, including sanctions, is maintained until South Africa can show that it can keep its word?

Mrs. Chalker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman's head is all right following the earlier incident.

On the more serious matter, we believe that the agreement will pave the way for an early implementation of the UN plan for Namibian independence. We also believe that the South Africans will act in good faith, but we shall judge them by their deeds. They have compelling reasons—economic, military and political—to sign the settlement that they have reached, and I believe that the terms will be acceptable. As to the creation of internal peace in Angola, there cannot be a lasting peace unless people come together. I do not believe that it is for Britain or other outside countries to prescribe how that internal peace should be brought about. I know that many African Heads of Government are seeking to help, and we sincerely hope that they will be successful in bringing about peace in Angola between all the parties.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Is it not surprising that, in these welcome results from the Geneva talks, no mention was made of Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, which is an important force in Angola? Will my right hon. Friend accept that, unless there is reconciliation between UNITA and the MPLA, there will be no lasting peace and stability in Southern Africa? If reconciliation can be achieved in that country, elections in Namibia can be free and fair, and following elections there, further progress and accommodation can be achieved in the Republic of South Africa.

Mrs. Chalker

Of course I believe that all parties must come together, and as one African leader said to me earlier this month, it would be difficult to negotiate with a body without a head. Therefore, it seems sensible that the process of creating international peace will require all parties to come together.

Mr. Anderson

Naturally, like the Minister, we warmly welcome the signs of movement in southern Africa, but should not the South African moves be seen in the context of the South Africans' economic difficulties? Is not their current diplomatic offensive essentially to buy time and divert opinion from their internal problems? Therefore, will the right hon. Lady assure the House that the Foreign Office will try to restrain the Prime Minister from visiting South Africa and giving a royal blessing on that country until there are real signs of movement on apartheid?

Mrs. Chalker

We are absolutely at one in wishing to see the agreements over Angola and Namibia concluded successfully and peacefully, and the progression towards achieving internal peace in Angola. As I said to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), there are compelling reasons, which should not be underestimated because they happen to be economic and political. We must judge the South African Government by their deeds. As to the speculation about the travels of my right hon. Friend, they remain that—just speculation.