HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc988-9
10. Mrs. Margaret Ewing

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from the Heads of the Governments of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on the current situation in those republics; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

We have received recent messages addressed by Baltic leaders to western Governments, and remain in frequent contact with the elected authorities in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. I saw the Lithuanian Foreign Minister yesterday. We share the view of those authorities that the problems of the Baltic republics should be resolved through negotiation and without coercion. We have expressed concern to the Soviet Government about recent actions by Soviet forces in the Baltic region and about the Soviet procurator-general's interim report on the Janaury shootings. Under the provisions of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, we and our Community partners have requested a full explanation from the Soviet Government.

Mrs. Ewing

I welcome that positive statement and I recognise the Minister's personal interest in these matters. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman advise the House whether he has had the opportunity to discuss, and possibly to implement, specific projects that would assist the three states economically, socially or educationally until such time as the western world recognises their obvious independence?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Lady is right to stress the significance of the know-how fund, which has an important role to play. I am glad to say that we have been able to identify some projects in the Baltic republics for support through the know-how fund. For example, we have been able to assist with port privatisation in Estonia, and we have been pursuing projects relevant to agriculture in Latvia and Lithuania.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my hon. Friend tell the House unequivocally that as we have never recognised that the invasion of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the armed forces of the Soviet Union resulted in a legitimate annexation, so we have always and continuously recognised—as we still do—those three countries as having national sovereignty which is independent, and that if they send diplomatic representatives here we shall receive them, just as we kept them in the past for as long as they still lived?

Mr. Hogg

As my hon. Friend knows, we have never recognised the de jure incorporation of the Baltic republics in the Soviet Union; they are, however, de facto members of the Soviet Union. We hope for—and will press for—negotiations between the Baltic republics and the Soviet Union, leading to an agreement that will regularise their relations in a way that is compatible with the desires of both parties. We are pressing the Soviet Union to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Baltic republics.

Sir Russell Johnston

What response did the Government receive from the President of the Supreme Soviet when those points were put to him on his visit to Britain a couple of weeks ago? Will the Government respond positively to the Estonian Foreign Minister, Mr. Meri, by suggesting that trade missions be established in each of the Baltic states?

Mr. Hogg

We are anxious to see how we can develop our relations with the Baltic states. A good example of that is the way in which we have used the know-how fund to support activities within those states.

The Soviet Government are well aware of the importance that we attach to an early and purposeful start to negotiations between the Soviet Union and the Baltic republics. I am disappointed that the working parties that have been established have not been used in a more determined way to push forward negotiations.

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