HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc17-20
36. Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what impact he expects the recent Washington agreement to have on humanitarian aid provision to Bosnia.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The parties to the joint action programme in Washington on 22 May 1993 agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Bosnia and to insist that all parties should allow humanitarian aid to pass without hindrance.

Mr. Watson

As that is clearly not happening, does not the shameful Washington agreement effectively represent a final sell-out of the Bosnian people by the United Nations? It is effectively impotent in the face of the Serbian advances through eastern Bosnia, and once Gorazde falls, as it seems that it soon must, what possibility will there he of delivering humanitarian aid to the Muslims of eastern Bosnia? Is it not time that the Minister put pressure on the Foreign Secretary and that he, in turn, put pressure on the other United Nations Security Council members to ensure that attempts are made to bring about peace by bringing direct pressure to bear on Serbia—and if that involves some form of military action, is that not what is now necessary to ensure that humanitarian aid can effectively be delivered?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

These are aid questions, and we have discussed Bosnia at Foreign and Commonwealth Office Question Time on many occasions. I pay tribute to the dedication and bravery of all the civilian aid workers in Bosnia, many of whom are British, and to our armed forces for their tremendous achievements. I am delighted to see that those considerable efforts were reflected in the recent honours list.

The hon. Member makes a political point, and it is not for me, in this Question Time, to answer that. He is aware that Bosnia features high on the agenda at the European Council meeting taking place in Copenhagen. Lord Owen met Foreign Ministers yesterday. There will be Foreign Ministers' discussion about the various political matters and the way in which they could he concluded.

Mr. Meacher

Is not the Minister ashamed that the British Government have signed the Washington agreement, which is a despicable betrayal of the largest population group in Bosnia, the Muslims, who are now being denied both the arms to defend themselves and adequate United Nations protection to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian relief and safe havens?

Is not the hon. Gentleman also ashamed that nothing is being done to provide for the 2 million refugees who have been driven out of their homes, that atrocities continue at Gorazde and that the delivery of humanitarian relief is dependent on the consent of the Serbs, who are guilty of genocide? If Vance-Owen is now dead, will the Government at least press for the creation of a United Nations transitional authority as the only political framework that may still save the victims of that terrible war from complete annihilation?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman, like the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who leads for the Opposition on foreign affairs, says that something must be done, but does not specify whether he wants British troops to be more at risk than they are. He should recognise that more than 2.3 million people in Bosnia depend on the international relief effort, under the co-ordination of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and that we have made a substantial contribution to that effort.

Mr. Cormack

Does my hon. Friend accept that no one would challenge the tributes that he has paid to the aid workers and the British troops? Indeed, we all echo them. Will he confirm that neither extra aid nor extra protection will be afforded by the Washington agreement?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Those matters are under discussion at this moment in Copenhagen.