HC Deb 09 March 1993 vol 220 cc779-80
9. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with representatives of the Government of the United States of America on the use of military equipment in Bosnia.

Mr. Rifkind

Both bilaterally and at the United Nations and in other international forums, I and my officials have had many discussions with representatives of the United States Government about developments in Bosnia and about the current operations there under the auspices of the United Nations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has President Clinton totally ruled out the use of military force in Bosnia to end the ethnic cleansing? Equally, has the United Kingdom totally ruled out the use of military force?

Mr. Rifkind

The United States Government have said that they are prepared to consider making a contribution with regard to the implementation of any ceasefire that might be agreed between the parties in Bosnia. They have not yet said explicitly whether that involves the deployment of ground forces. As for the United Kingdom, as I said in answer to an earlier question, there is no possibility of our providing ground forces for a combat role in Bosnia. We are prepared to consider what contributions we may make in the event of an effective ceasefire being implemented and seen to be working on the ground.

Mr. Robert Banks

On the possible deployment of American, and more especially NATO, peacekeeping ground forces in Bosnia, will my right hon. and learned Friend exercise great caution bearing in mind the fact that peacekeeping ground forces can be tied down for many years? There are heavy costs involved. Is not it better for such peacekeeping to be done under the auspices of the United Nations, given the wider compilation of forces that it can deploy?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is entirely correct to urge caution with regard to any deployment of United Kingdom forces to the former Yugoslavia. I believe that it is also the case that the United Nations should be the sponsoring body for any initiative of this kind. It has been the experience in many previous United Nations operations that an initial commitment can have implications for years to come.

I believe that the time has arrived for the United Nations to consider rotating its forces to carry out its obligations in various theatres around the world. There should no longer be an assumption in any part of the world that countries that contribute to a United Nations operation should continue to contribute as long as the United Nations is present in that particular territory.

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