HC Deb 13 January 1993 vol 216 cc900-2
3. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what current discussions he has had with other Foreign Ministers about the long-term future of the former Yugoslavia; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd

European and north American Foreign Ministers met repeatedly in December for discussions on the problems of the former Yugoslavia in a number of fora, including the NATO council, the EC and the steering committee of the international conference in Geneva.

The European Council in Edinburgh declared again that the Serbian nation faced a clear choice: if there were a radical change of policy, Serbia would gradually be admitted to the international community. If not, existing sanctions and pressures would be tightened and extended to isolate Serbia.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that Common Market countries are partly responsible for the problems that exist in the former Yugoslavia? Is not it true that several months ago Germany, after annexing East Germany, decided to recognise Croatia, and that the Government and the rest of the Common Market countries agreed with it? Is not that the same Croatia which supported Hitler in the second world war and was responsible for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Serbs?

Is not it ironic that the Common Market, which wants political union with 12 nation states, is now taking part in the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia? Are not these double standards?

Mr. Hurd

I am sorry to have to tell the House that a British soldier was killed in Bosnia this morning. I know that the House will join me in expressing our sorrow and sympathy to his family.

I do not accept the analysis of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). It was right for us all, and certainly the Government, to find out whether it was possible to hold Yugoslavia together by consent, which would have been the best answer. However, that was made impossible, not least by the Serbs.

So we had the emergence of republics. Historians will argue for years about the timing of recognition, but, whatever one's feelings about it, it was a matter of months. No one would seriously argue that we should today refuse to recognise the existence, which is a fact, of a Croatia which is very different from the Croatia and Croat leadership of 1943, 1944 and 1945.

Mr. Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is every bit as important to have peace in the Balkans as it is to have peace in the middle east? Does he further agree that if, as we all devoutly hope, the talks in Geneva result in a proper peace under international auspices, it will be the duty of the international community to guarantee that settlement?

Mr. Hurd

I certainly welcome the extent of progress yesterday in Geneva. My hon. Friend brought the Foreign Minister of Bosnia to see me this morning and I am grateful for that. I found that he, who represented his country at the talks, welcomed the progress, although he was understandably sceptical on the ground that what counts is not what is agreed at Geneva but whether the Bosnian Serbs honour that agreement. Meanwhile, we must keep up the pressure. But my hon. Friend is perfectly right that any eventual agreement achieved in Geneva through the EC-UN process will need to be underwritten by the international community.

Mr. George Robertson

First, may I join in expressing the sympathy and deep condolences of the Opposition for the relations of the British soldier who was killed this morning in Bosnia. Our troops, wearing the blue helmet of the United Nations, are involved in the heroic task of getting humanitarian help to thousands of people who would otherwise die in the winter of this horrible civil war. It was never going to be a risk-free operation, but it is still a singular tragedy when even one of our troops is killed for the greater good of the people of that troubled area.

May I also commend the outcome of the Vance-Owen talks in Geneva, which have shown the first glimmer of hope for that area for a long time? My hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary and I met the Bosnian Foreign Minister, Mr. Silajdic, this morning, as did the Foreign Secretary. Does the Foreign Secretary accept that it is crucial that when Lord Owen reports at the EC Foreign Ministers' meeting this afternoon, it is made clear that an enduring peace will be guaranteed only by the permanent cessation of the use of heavy weapons in the area and that we must continue the pursuit of those who are accused of war crimes in the region?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his first point. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence told the House yesterday, our troops in Bosnia are carrying out a necessary job successfully. So far they have escorted 147 convoys and carried almost 12,000 tonnes of food and humanitarian supplies. That means that lives have been saved in places which until then it was hard to reach. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's second point. The corralling of heavy weapons was agreed in principle at the London conference in August. It has not happened, partly because the Bosnian Serbs have not agreed to it and partly as a result of the difficulties of arranging it. I am sure that we shall discuss both points this evening with Lord Owen.

Mr. Colvin

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will have heard from the Bosnian Foreign Minister this morning that he wants the arms embargoes lifted so that Bosnia does not continue to fight with one arm behind its back. He also wants the no-fly zone under Security Council resolution 781 to be enforced. What further steps can be taken on both matters?

Mr. Hurd

On the no-fly zone, there are no combat missions—that is, no Bosnian Serb bombers or fighters are striking at targets in Bosnia—from those airports. There have been helicopter flights, which are certainly in breach of the United Nations resolution, as are some Croation flights. The members of the Security Council are fairly near the end of their consideration of how the Security Council should react to those violations.

I know the Foreign Minister's view about the arms embargo, although it was not at the top of his agenda this morning. I do not believe in half an arms embargo. In practice, it will not be possible to allow the arming of one party to a conflict and expect the other party to go without resupply. In practice we would find that Serbia would be resupplied by those who sympathise with her. As Bosnia is already awash with arms, the war would be likely to continue rather than be brought to an end. Perhaps that is why this morning the Bosnian Foreign Minister put the emphasis on demilitarisation, beginning with the corralling of heavy weapons, not on militarisation.

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