HC Deb 18 December 1991 vol 201 cc265-6
8. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he plans to have with the United Nations Secretary General about a United Nations peace-keeping force in Yugoslavia.

Mr. Hurd

We expect to discuss that and other matters with the new secretary general when he visits London I hope, next month. Meanwhile, the British mission in New York is in constant touch with the secretary general and his staff and I have alredy told the House of Sir David Hannay's helpful discussion with Mr. Vance yesterday.

Mr. Michie

While the Secretary of State has tried to assure the House about the problems and implications of recognition of Croatia, will he try once more to reassure us about that recognition? Does it refer to territory already held by the Croatians or does it apply to old frontiers which are up for grabs? If it is the latter, how will Britain ensure or guarantee that the old or new boundaries are enforced?

Mr. Hurd

The decision of the day before yesterday related to any Yugoslav republics which fulfilled certain conditions that we set out. There was no mention of any particular republic. Obviously, recognition does not carry with it any guarantee of military protection. However, long before this immediate question arose, we and our partners—and, I believe, the whole world—made it clear that we are not prepared to recognise the alteration of boundaries by force.

Mr. Marlow

On Monday, we had a distinct and coherent policy with regard to Yugoslavia. Today we have an undistinguished and incoherent policy. If it is inevitable that the over-mighty Hun is to be in the driving seat of European security and defence policies, would it not be more honest and dignified if these matters were decided by a majority vote as we could then at least honestly state our position?

Mr. Hurd

I entirely disagree with that. I am sure that the right way forward in these matters is to discuss differences around the table for however long it takes, reach an agreement if that is possible, and act on it if we can. And that is what we do. If at any stage in the discussions on Monday, or in all the other discussions that I have attended in the past two years, it had been a question of majority vote, there would have been much less agreement, and to the extent that decisions had been imposed by a majority, they would have been much less effective. Everything that happened on Monday reinforced that view.

Mr. Alton

Instead of an obsession with Germany's position, should we not be obsessed with what is happening in Croatia, where one in eight of the population has been displaced, we have provided only £77,000 in humanitarian aid and the people are being pounded into the ground? Will the Secretary of State consider ways of ensuring that a sky shield can be erected by the international powers over Croatian air space to stop the aerial bombardment of Dubrovnik and Vukovar and also find ways to increase humanitarian aid to people who will otherwise continue to die over Christmas?

Mr. Hurd

I do not think that an air shield is feasible or would be effective. I have already stated my view of the best way to stop the fighting. The hon. Gentleman is right about the principle of humanitarian aid, although he is wrong about the details. Via the British Red Cross, we have committed 425,000 blankets at a cost of £1.5 million, and £250,000 in transport costs. Most of that has gone to Croatia. There is also substantial aid from the European Community, amounting to £9.1 million, of which our share is £1.5 million. If the hon. Gentleman is going to talk about humanitarian aid, I hope that he will get his facts right.

Mr. Wilkinson

If Her Majesty's Government have, at least in principle, accorded official recognition to Croatia if certain conditions are met, would it not be very difficult for Her Majesty's Government or the European Community to deny Croatia the legitimate UN-recognised right of self-defence? In that regard, the United Nations surely has a peace enforcement role as well as a peace-keeping role. Unless the United Nations is prepared actually physically to keep the peace, the federal forces have every incentive to maintain military operations against Croatia.

Mr. Hurd

As I have told my hon. Friend before, I do not think that there has ever been any prospect of any member of the European Community or of the United Nations believing that a United Nations or a Western European Union peace-keeping force could force its way into Yugoslavia against the opposition either of the Yugoslav national army—the JNA—or of any armed force. The proposition has always been that a peace-keeping force should enforce and keep a ceasefire which already existed. That remains the position, and it remains the position quite independently of any questions of recognition.

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