§ 11 am
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (by private notice)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the situation relating to British troops of the United Nations in the Travnik area.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)
A series of incidents involving a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid occurred yesterday and today near Novi Travnik. This was not an official United Nations convoy and had been organised by the local authorities of the town of Tuzla, whose population is predominantly Muslim; it was carrying supplies from the Dalmatian coast to Tuzla.
Yesterday afternoon, the convoy, which was not escorted, came into conflict with troops of the HVO—the Bosnian Croation army—4 km south of Novi Travnik. It seems clear that there were several Muslim casualties and it is believed that some Muslim drivers were taken away and shot.
Yesterday afternoon, units of the first battalion Prince of Wales Own Regiment—1 PWO—were ordered by UNPROFOR headquarters in Bosnia-Herzegovina to go to the scene to give protection to the convoy and to stabilise the situation. They were authorised to use force if necessary. They were subsequently tasked with escorting the convoy to Tuzla and the trucks were then designated a United Nations protected convoy.
At about 8 am local time today, three HVO soldiers engaged 1 PWO's Warrior vehicles with fire. 1 PWO, while protecting the convoy, first fired warning shots; but when the HVO firing continued, a further burst was fired from a Warrior. Two HVO soldiers were hit and a third fled the scene. There were no British casualties. I cannot confirm media reports that the HVO soldiers were killed, although that may well be true. I understand that the convoy subsequently moved forward in the direction of Tuzla via Vitez.
The incident graphically illustrates the hazards of delivering aid to those caught up in the conflict in Bosnia and the vital humanitarian role played by British troops and others in UNPROFOR. From the information available to me, I am satisfied that Bri`tish troops acted promptly and efficiently and fully in accordance with operational rules and procedures.
§ Madam Speaker
Before we proceed, let me draw hon. Members' attention to the fact that the question deals specifically with British troops of the United Nations in the Travnik area. It goes no wider than that. It is a narrow question, and I hope that hon. Members will restrict their remarks accordingly.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As a national service man—tank crew with the Scots Dragoon Guards—40 years ago, I feel deeply for service men in danger. British and United Nations troops in the Travnik area are in one hell of a position.
What are the guidelines for their self-defence? What happens if the warlords in the Travnik area try to seek revenge? It seems to me that we are talking about a hiding to nothing. What warnings were given to the Croats? The Minister said that drivers were taken away and shot. Could he expand on the circumstances in which those 559 drivers were taken away? Are the rules of engagement the standard United Nations rules, and what precisely is the position as regards authorisation to fire or to return fire?
In relation to United Nations resolution No. 770, which includes the words "and others", may I ask about the position of non-United Nations convoys in the Travnik area? In particular, was there a request for the Muslim convoy to be escorted? What is the status of such requests and what is the mechanism by which they are made?
In the event of revenge for what has happened in the Travnik area, are we to augment forces? Will there be an escalation or withdrawal? That is a very worrying question, which has become acute this morning. Do we change the rules of engagement? What are the contingency plans for withdrawal or evacuation not only of United Nations military personnel but of aid personnel in the Travnik area?
What is the position of the sappers who were supposedly held at gunpoint by Muslim forces? Were they deprived of their equipment? Did they try to return fire, and were they advised to try to return fire?
What is the position of the RFA Argus and the artillery pieces that were available for British and United Nations troops to defend themselves? Are jets from Britain being deployed in readiness to defend safe areas and British forces in the Travnik area?
Finally, may I say that those who sit on green Benches had better be very cautious about making decisions that commit troops in a civil war?
§ Mr. Hanley
The hon. Gentleman has gone slightly wider than his original question, but I shall try to accommodate him as best I can.
The incidents that I described happened in the area to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and he is right that this was an unofficial humanitarian convoy. The convoy had asked for assistance, but UNPROFOR had decided that the situation in the area was dangerous and therefore did not give it permission to travel or to have assistance. It came under attack last night; the situation was reassessed and 1 PWO was sent to help it.
Our troops were acting on the orders of the United Nations command in Bosnia-Herzegovina and within the spirit of the mandate to provide protective support for humanitarian convoys. The soldiers came under fire, and, in such circumstances, they have a right to act in self-defence. That is exactly what they were doing. They were within their mandate throughout.
The United Nations command in Bosnia of course regards the incident as a serious one, but does not believe that it presages a general decline in the situation throughout Bosnia or in the British area of responsibility. Because we believe that there are serious issues to be addressed and a need to ensure that our troops are fully protected whatever the circumstances, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday announced that further troops were to be put in readiness lest they be needed. We are studying the incident, but I cannot give any further details.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the drivers of the vehicles who were taken away and shot. We have information that that could have happened last night. They would have been Muslim drivers of the convoy—taken by the HVO and killed. It is a disgraceful incident 560 and fully justifies the deployment of our troops. We must remember that there is no escalation at all in the role of those troops. They are there to support humanitarian aid. Right hon. and hon. Members alike fully understand the risks that are involved, but the general mood, both in the House and in the country, is that we are very proud indeed of our troops and of the way in which they are carrying out their humanitarian task. Of course we do not wish them to be put any more severely at risk than the situation dictates.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
May I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on assuming his heavy new responsibilities which I know he will discharge excellently?
Given the obvious fact that in the Travnik area relief work is becoming ever more dangerous—as it is elsewhere in Bosnia—as we see the carve-up of the state of Bosnia reflected in the violence around Travnik and in ever more blood-soaked violence, given the increasing difficulties for our own heroic troops and given United Nations resolution 836 passed on 4 June, which greatly extends the mandate for self-defence and retaliation for UN troops in Bosnia and in the Travnik area, will my hon. Friend assure the House very strongly indeed that he is keeping an hour-by-hour and day-by-day eye on the position of our troops in this area and in Bosnia generally and that he is monitoring them all the time to ensure that they are not left in an impossible position or in one where the conditions have changed but their equipment has not necessarily changed so that they are placed in great difficulties?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his opening comments. I assure him and the House that we are dealing with this matter at the Ministry of Defence and at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office is on the Front Bench beside me today.
We are concentrating on the matter with every passing minute. Of course, information is difficult to come by immediately and that is why I did not comment earlier on the media reports. However, I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are monitoring the situation very closely, not only because of our duty to deliver humanitarian aid, but, as I said before, to ensure that our own troops are not placed at undue risk when delivering that aid.
My right hon. Friend mentioned Security Council resolution 836, which was passed on 4 June. He is right to say that that resolution gives us a greater right to react if our troops come under fire or if we need to withdraw our troops. However, that is a contingency plan and it has not been acted upon. The troops are now at a higher level of readiness and a squadron of Jaguar fighters has been allocated to NATO to await UN requests. Therefore, I believe that we are making a very sensible, very cautious, but very principled response to the humanitarian needs.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I also welcome the Minister to his new post and thank him for his statement.
Is it not the case that the situation is now fast descending into one of the utmost gravity? As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said earlier, we now face a position, which many of us have predicted for some time, which is simply beyond control. We may have to consider not just what more we can do, but the reality of the need to withdraw—
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
The right hon. Gentleman wanted them to go in before. He has come full circle.
§ Mr. Ashdown
Well, exactly so, and this has happened because we did not get a grip on this early enough.
I notice that the Minister did not comment on the very disturbing incident that took place in relation to the disarming and humiliation of British soldiers on the road from Travnik to Kiseljak. It is very easy to exercise outrage from the safety of 1,000 miles away. The fact is that those soldiers must have been placed in a very difficult position. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that neither they nor their commanders will be blamed for the incident.
This was a humiliation waiting to happen. Our failure to provide a clear aim, as Manfred Woerner said, and to provide clear rules of engagement and a clear political aim has meant that UN troops—and British troops, among the finest in the theatre—have increasingly been treated with contempt by the Bosnian forces on both sides.
I hope that the Minister will realise that our soldiers on the ground, through humiliation or worse, will very soon have to pay a much more dangerous price because of the failure of will, politics, clarity and action on the part of this Government and others.
§ Mr. Skinner
I have never heard such a two-faced statement in my life. The right hon. Gentleman wanted more troops before. Now he wants them out.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful for the welcome of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). However, I am somewhat puzzled by the stance that he is showing this morning. He was in the vanguard of those who wanted us to send more troops into the area. We answered the need in yesterday's statement in ensuring that troops were ready to go in, largely to protect our own troops carrying out their humanitarian responsibilities. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind because of yesterday's incident, which he called a humiliation.
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure for the very best of motives, wants us to put in more troops, but as soon as they face any difficulty, they are to be withdrawn. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned yesterday's incident at Kiseljak. That was a totally unrelated incident in which two Spartan vehicles were stopped by Muslims at a roadblock near Kiseljak and were coerced at gunpoint into leaving their vehicles. They were then robbed of their weapons, ammunition and other equipment. They were released unharmed.
That was not a case of their rules of engagement being inadequate. They had to judge whether they should open fire and whether, if they had opened fire, they would have put the lives of their colleagues at greater risk. In very difficult circumstances, they decided to take what I regard as sensible actions. They are alive and their vehicles have been recovered. However, as I have stressed, that shows the difficulty of the situation in which our troops, in supporting the humanitarian aim, are bound to come under fire. They are bound to face difficulties of that sort.
Either we support the humanitarian aid and resolve with our troops and support them properly and have reserves on hand to protect them if necessary, or we get out. From what the right hon. Member for Yeovil said, I am not sure whether he wants us to withdraw now because he believes that we cannot continue. I wonder whether he 562 would like to say whether he believes that the situation is now perhaps so bad that we should withdraw the troops and tell us what the consequences would then be. How then would humanitarian aid get through? The right hon. Gentleman should think again about what he has said.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
May I also welcome my hon. Friend to his new appointment and wish him the very best in the execution of his duties?
As the two incidents which followed so closely upon each other—the disarming of Royal Engineers, including the taking of general-purpose machine guns from the Spartan vehicles and the returning of fire by the members of the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire and the possible killing of Croat gunmen—involved different communities, does that not demonstrate that it would be very unwise for Her Majesty's Government to become more deeply militarily involved in this intractable, inter-communal conflict?
My hon. Friend the Minister referred to the possible deployment of additional British air power to the theatre and the sending of a Jaguar squadron. The use of air power in the circumstances that he described would be an exceedingly blunt intrument and would probably provoke retaliation, ambushes and further attacks on British troops. Will the Government reconsider, at the earliest possible date, the full aims, strategy and objectives of our involvement in Bosnia and the Yugoslav region?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend whose knowledge of the Royal Air Force and its capabilities is probably second to none in the House. However, the use of air power would be as a last resort, probably for the very reasons that my hon. Friend gave. The consequences of using what is, as he said, an extremely blunt and very violent instrument would have to be weighed very carefully indeed. However, that air power is in reserve. It is in reserve—and I cannot stress this often enough to the House—to protect our own forces who are carrying out their humanitarian role. There is no escalation of the role of our forces. If the troops that we have in the area now, who are supported not just by the RAF but by the Royal Navy, need further protection to carry out their tasks or to withdraw, they will be given that protection. But there is no increase in our role. There is no change in our aims and objectives, which are to bring humanitarian aid to anyone in Bosnia-Herzegovina who needs it, from whatever part of that troubled community.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
Should not the mandate of the United Nations now be extended so that more ground troops begin to be available for the protection of convoys, the attempt to seal the borders from Croatia and from Serbia and the protection of safe havens where the populations are fully defended? The United Nations forces are doing a fine job, but their mandate probably needs extending and the resources need to be added to considerably.
§ Mr. Hanley
I answered the hon. Gentleman's question earlier. There is no need at this stage, we believe, to increase further the United Nations mandate. The United Nations has our troops available to help to protect the forces of the UNPROFOR in carrying out its humanitarian role. Of course, we are considering each day any further initiatives that might help to improve the delivery of that humanitarian aid.
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
Will my hon. Friend ensure that a message of support goes to our troops who are carrying out very difficult tasks in the whole Yugoslav area, particularly in Travnik? Will he tell the House whether there is a CSCE mission that covers Travnik? If not, would it not help to see whether the civilian side of the CSCE missions might be able to do something to lower the tension? All right hon. and hon. Members want to see the tension lowered so that we neither have to withdraw nor necessarily send more troops but can carry out necessary humanitarian work under the United Nations and the British Government, properly and fully to feed so many starving people in that area.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question. There is no CSCE mission in Travnik. There is one in Kosovo. We do not foresee any change of role there.
I thank my right hon. Friend particularly for his message to our troops who are carrying out what most people would agree is a desperately difficult task, and they are carrying it out with such superb professionalism that all of us are rightly proud of what they are doing. We would not put them to any greater risk than is necessary, but my right hon. Friend's thanks to them for carrying out their role are most important and gratifying, and I will make sure that they are passed on.
§ Mr. Skinner
Is the Minister aware that, during these proceedings, Serbia has not been mentioned once? However, he will recall that, in preceding months when statements have been made about this matter, the blame has been laid on the Serbs from beginning to end.
Does not the series of incidents demonstrate, first, that the leader of the Liberal party got it wrong and does not have the grace to admit it and, secondly, for those who wanted to bomb the hell out of Serbia, that it is now apparent that the three contending forces—the Croats, the Serbs and Muslims—are all in battle together? Will he accept also—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is abusing the private notice question. I indicated that it is somewhat limited. I was very tolerant in allowing a little straying from the point, but the hon. Gentleman is going much too far.
§ Mr. Skinner
Does the Minister accept that the incident in which British troops were involved demonstrates that, instead of having more British troops there, and instead of carrying out the wishes of the German nation, it is time that they brought the troops out? One thing is certain: when there is a cocktail of religion and nationalism, war is not very far around the corner.
§ Mr. Hanley
The hon. Gentleman's comments have been greeted by the House, as they usually are, with a measure of disbelief and disrespect inasmuch as he has mentioned the Serbs. We did not mention the Serbs today for the simple reason that, to our knowledge, they were not involved in the two incidents. The Serbs are greatly responsible for a number of atrocities in that area. It is perhaps right that we should remember today that it is not merely the Serbs but the Croats and the Muslims—it is all sides of the terrible struggle—who are to blame not just for the incidents that we have seen in the past 24 hours but for many incidents over the past few months. It is a very 564 difficult and intractable problem. The issues that we are dealing with today are about Novi Travnik, and that is why the Serbs were not mentioned in my statement.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
I am most concerned about the current situation on the ground in Travnik. From what my hon. Friend has said, it is clear that the judgment was that the convoy should not have gone because it was unwise to do so. The fact that it did so without protection speaks for itself. My concern is that the subsequent judgment to put British troops in the position of trying to deal with that convoy, which I understand was seven miles long and involved many vehicles—our own troops had about 12 vehicles—has put them in an impossible military position if the whole thing breaks down as a result of what has happened.
What I should like to hear from my hon. Friend is the repeated assurance that, whatever steps can be taken to ensure their position should the situation break down—I understand that it is impossible to get ground troops in to reinforce them because of the nature of the terrain—and to ensure that it is understood on the ground that those troops are trying to do a job for the United Nations and to protect that convoy in an impossible situation, the troops will have every support that we and the United Nations can offer, from wherever it needs to come.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The United Nations protects any United Nations-organised convoys, but we cannot and could not protect every convoy that wants to travel, even though they are likely to be at very great risk. However, situations change. Of course, in this case UNPROFOR decided that this convoy should become official to protect those people who remained in it. It was a large convoy of humanitarian aid. Therefore, there is no need for me to expand upon my hon. Friend's wise words.
There is certainly no intention to pull out at this stage, for the simple reason, as I have said a number of times, that it is our duty to deliver humanitarian aid. There are people in great need. I am very surprised at the callous and selfish nature of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who believes that the delivery of humanitarian aid in such circumstances should be condemned.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
Surely this incident reveals the self delusion that is at the heart of our current role in Bosnia. Humanitarian aid is aid. Food and medicine have military value—after all, armies march on their stomachs. Surely it is folly to think that, in an area where there had been heavy fighting with Muslim attacks on Croats, we could then have a Muslim convoy wandering around the area without stirring up trouble. Although we might consider ourselves to be neutral, if we intervene there we would be seen as intervening on one side. Please, in this situation, before we talk about adding additional resources, could we first reassess the objectives? Our present objectives are incoherent and self-delusory.
§ Mr. Hanley
I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman's sincerity in this matter, but I doubt whether he accepts that we are doing the very best that we can to help to deliver humanitarian aid, and that in itself is an aim; that is an objective. There is no muddling about that objective. There might be many decisions to take and various ways 565 in which we can help to deliver that aid, but it is the United Nations' role to try to make sure that what is needed is escorted and brought to those people.
It is a very difficult situation. We are not at war. What we are doing is supporting a humanitarian role, and I believe that that is a noble aim. If there is some insecurity, and if there are some parts of the policy that the hon. Gentleman finds unclear, it is purely because it is a very unclear matter. One has to react to difficult circumstances with every passing day. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to help that troubled area, and we will continue to do so as long as it is safe.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)
My hon. Friend the Minister has eloquently stated the dangers that our troops face in a very worthy cause, which is to deliver or help to deliver humanitarian aid. Will my hon. Friend assure me that our troops will not be put in an impossible practical situation on the ground? However worthy the aim, the dangers will escalate.
Will my hon. Friend discuss with the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State how NATO and the Western European Union can respond? There has been a lot of talk about how we might further protect our troops and ensure that our efforts in and around Travnik and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia can be made more effective in our attempts to help the populations. But unless we back up current resources with extra resources, I am afraid that our forces will be put in an impossible situation. It is not fair that we politicians should demand that of the military.
§ Mr. Hanley
My hon. Friend neatly puts his finger on the heart of the dilemma. The safety of our troops is paramount; we keep it continuously under review. We have contingency plans to provide additional protection for our troops—they were announced yesterday—either to enable them to carry out their mission or to assist with a withdrawal, if it came to that. No one at this stage is contemplating a withdrawal of UNPROFOR, which has done, and continues to do, sterling work, and which has saved many thousands of lives. I believe that that is worth supporting.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Trying to stop people acting barbarously towards each other and slaughtering each other is an extraordinarily difficult task, but it is one which civilised nations should continue to pursue. The incident at Travnik clearly showed that it is only a matter of time before British troops are engaged in full-scale confrontation with one force or another. So it is time seriously to contemplate whether British forces will be withdrawn from the United Nations contingent or whether we will ask the United Nations massively to increase the number of troops on the ground—which it should have done a long time ago. My feeling is that we should ask the UN to do the latter. Will the Minister go to the Security Council to get a decision taken now, not when our troops inevitably start coming under fire?
§ Mr. Hanley
The United Nations is taking pains at this moment to try to increase the number of troops from the world community to help in the safe areas. I have said what our role is. We are proud of our membership of UNPROFOR and of the help we give it. I believe that UNPROFOR is proud of the professionalism which the British forces are devoting to its humanitarian effort.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
I wish my hon. Friend well in his new and already uncomfortable role. The two incidents that he described, particularly the second, which involved the humiliation and disarmament of British soldiers, surely illustrate once again that their role in Bosnia involves doing something that British soldiers have never before been asked to do. Tiny packets of soldiers, unprotected and unsupported, are operating in the middle of a bloody civil war. I put it to my hon. Friend that that cannot continue for much longer. I for one—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I am afraid that hon. Members are indulging in debate. Much as we are interested in the hon. Gentleman's views, this is the time to question the Minister, not to make long statements.
§ Mr. Brazier
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Will my hon. Friend accept that this sort of humiliation and disarmament of British soldiers is unacceptable, and that we cannot keep them much longer in this sort of role?
§ Mr. Hanley
My hon. Friend has stated that the incident at Kiseljak was a humiliation. I would say that it shows the professionalism of British troops; they were using their heads rather than their guns. They have saved their lives; all of them returned from what could have been a difficult situation. Had any of them opened fire, one of their colleagues might have been killed. Details are still coming in and we are still studying the whole incident, but the fact that the troops returned and brought their vehicles with them shows their courage and commitment to carrying out a very difficult role. I do not regard that as a humiliation. These men were doing their duty and they lived to fight another day.
§ Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)
I join other Members in welcoming the Minister to his new position.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that on both sides of the House there is tremendous concern about the position in which British troops find themselves in Bosnia? Does he accept that matters will escalate, that lives will be lost and that there will be many more Travniks until the Government cease to recognise and to try to maintain that failed entity known as Bosnia?
§ Mr. Hanley
The situation there is serious, as we all understand. The fact that we have allocated to a state of higher readiness more troops in support of our forces carrying out their humanitarian role shows that we recognise what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the escalation of difficulties in Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the Ministry of Defence and at the FCO we day by day take account of the risks involved and of the capability to fulfil the humanitarian aim.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)
I have served in the Army and have seen service in various positions and places. Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), may I add that my concern is that, because of their reputation—it is well earned—there is a temptation to put British troops into impossible positions because of their known capabilities. I therefore urge my hon. Friend to assure the House that we will review certain recent actions so as to be certain that our soldiers are not being placed in invidious positions in which their role becomes impossible.
§ Mr. Hanley
My hon. Friend must be right to say that we should avoid placing our soldiers at undue risk—that 567 is self-evident. I disagreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) about whether this was a humiliation. We could not have foreseen the incident. Apparently, a roadblock was put up by some Muslim soldiers, although the exact details have yet to come in. I would not have regarded that as an impossible position; nor could it have been foreseen—at least, no more than other dangers and difficulties can be foreseen in this unfortunate theatre. I stress that if lives are likely to be put at risk, that is done with the Government's permission and the sanction of the United Nations. We shall carefully examine every change in circumstances, such as the one to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has rightly drawn attention.
This has been an important small debate—in effect—showing the seriousness with which the House treats this matter. I am pleased that my hon. Friend, whose professionalism is well known to us all, has drawn attention to the risks that our forces are undergoing in difficult circumstances to carry out their tremendous humanitarian role and the saving of many thousands of lives.
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)
Let me make it clear that our troops, who are operating in difficult and dangerous circumstances, not to take sides but to bring humanitarian relief to people in the most desperate circumstances, have the support and admiration of the Opposition.
I realise that the Minister's answers are effectively holding answers and that we shall have to return to this matter next week as the situation moves on, but his answers still will not do.
The Minister has been repeatedly asked to spell out the orders under which our troops, acting under the United Nations protection force, are operating. He must do so. He has confirmed that the convoy in question was not operating under the UN humanitarian aid programme. Is it acting against advice by heading into the dangerous battle zone in which it now finds itself? It must be incumbent on the Minister to explain the involvement of United Kingdom troops in the operation. What is to happen now? Will our troops be left in this dangerous situation, perhaps awaiting reprisals? Will they be reinforced—the Minister spoke about further troops being in readiness—or are they to be withdrawn to safety?
§ Mr. Hanley
I thought that I made it clear at the beginning of my answer to the original question that the convoy was not an official United Nations one and was therefore not being protected. Therefore, perhaps it was most unwise for it to proceed on its journey. The need for humanitarian aid in Tuzla is well understood and perhaps to some extent we cannot blame people for trying to make progress with this large convoy. I said that, following the incidents yesterday, UNPROFOR sent in 1 PWO to help, and from that moment the trucks were designated as a United Nations protected convoy. It remains such a convoy and it is now proceeding.
I have spoken repeatedly about the rules of enagement and they could not be clearer. Our troops are allowed to fire to protect their lives. If they come under fire and believe that they are in danger they are entitled to engage.