HC Deb 12 May 1993 vol 224 cc797-8
12. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the role of the United Nations Organisation as a peacekeeper.

Mr. Hurd

Article 1.1 of the charter of the United Nations states that the purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace. We fully support the United Nations and the Secretary-General in these endeavours.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Secretary of State admit that so far, unfortunately, the record of the United Nations has in no way lived up to what is contained in the charter? Will he accept that, while we are now seeing some improvement in the role of the United Nations, we need the following: first, a very rigorous regime of arms control to try to end the possibilities of the sort of wars that we are seeing all over the world; secondly, a permanent structure to react quickly to events such as those occurring in Yugoslavia, where, because everybody was at sixes and sevens, we have seen a tragedy unfolding before our eyes and have been virtually powerless to do very much that is effective about it?

Mr. Hurd

We are all in favour, and have taken initiatives in making, more transparent and open the criteria for the sale of arms, particularly among the permanent five. However, I ask the hon. Gentleman to live in the real world in which arms, particularly small arms, are plentiful and cheap in almost every country.

We are now seeing disorder within countries. It is not realistic to suppose that, even if the whole international community were united, for example, on what should be the future of Nagorno-Karabakh or the regime in Angola or Somalia, simply by forming a view from outside we will be able to impose solutions on the internal affairs of those countries. We can be more willing to try, not by putting in troops but by making diplomatic efforts to show people ways in which they can live together. However, I ask the hon. Gentleman not to arouse too many hopes in that respect.

At the beginning of 1992 there were 10,000 United Nations peacekeeping troops; at the beginning of 1993 there were 60,000; and when the planned deployments in Mozambique and Somalia happen there will be 100,000 in 12 separate operations. That is the measure of the growth of this problem and of the efforts of the United Nations to deal with it.

Sir Michael Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most important ways of ensuring the peacekeeping process of the United Nations, particularly after a period of civil war, is through the organisation of free and fair elections? In that context, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to send good wishes to all those who will be involved in the process in Cambodia, including hon. Members and local government officials who, with other international representatives, will be leaving for Cambodia next week?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is quite right. Cambodia is one example where the United Nations has, for the moment, brought most of the fighting to an end and set up a framework in which there can, and should be, relatively free elections later this month. The situation is fragile, however, and my hon. Friend is right that all those concerned need our help and good wishes.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I welcome the Secretary of State's comment that the situation in Cambodia is fragile. Can he enlighten us as to how far the peacekeeping efforts of United Nations are impeded by the lack of finance from one of its largest participants? Does he accept that in Yugoslavia, where our troops are now changing over, humanitarian efforts were being hindered by those who were seeking to use the convoys bringing in aid for the purpose of supplying munitions? It would be worse if the United Nations were arming the participants there.

Mr. Hurd

It is true that one of the handicaps that the Secretary-General has suffered and draws attention to in his "Agenda for Peace" is financial uncertainty. Unfortunately, both former super-powers have in the past contributed to that uncertainty. I hope that both are removing that uncertainty. That is certainly the intention of President Clinton, but I am not encouraged by the Russian veto in the Security Council yesterday on financing peacekeeping. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's second point: we want to continue the humanitarian effort while it is needed.

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