HC Deb 08 February 1994 vol 237 cc125-6
1. Mr. Peter Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the NATO summit.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

The NATO summit successfully set the agenda for the alliance to meet the challenge of enhancing European stability. Alliance leaders launched a partnership for peace in which the emerging democracies of eastern Europe will be able to develop a deeper relationship with the alliance through practical military and political co-operation.

Mr. Ainsworth

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that encouraging answer. Would he care to comment on the recent trilateral meeting with France and Germany which took place in London? Does he agree that that may well help Britain to play a leading role in the emerging European security and defence initiative?

Mr. Rifkind

My recent meetings with my French and German colleagues provided a useful opportunity for informal exchanges of views about a wide range of issues. Perhaps the most interesting information that was shared at the meeting was the decision that the French Government have reached to join the military committee of NATO, in which they have not fully participated since the days of General De Gaulle. They also expressed an intention to participate in informal meetings of Defence Ministers. We welcome that closer association of France with the workings of the alliance, as it is especially important that the views of the French should be available when subjects such as peacekeeping, partnership for peace, counter-proliferation and other matters of that type are being discussed.

Mr. Jim Marshall

If a non-NATO country joins the European Union and becomes a full member of the Western European Union, what will its relationship be with NATO?

Mr. Rifkind

They are obviously separate alliances, but it is assumed that, as countries move towards membership of the European Union, if they also wish to consider a closer association with NATO the two would naturally seem to go together, as would involvement in the Western European Union. It is obviously better that there is common membership so far as possible, but that will depend on the pace of progress, not only for the European Union but for other matters relating to military integration.

Mr. John Marshall

Do the NATO leaders recognise that there will never be a negotiated peace in the former Yugoslavia so long as there is a huge imbalance in firepower there, and is that not an irrefutable reason for lifting the arms embargo so that the Bosnian Muslims can have a chance to defend themselves?

Mr. Rifkind

It has been the policy of the United Nations for many years, not only in relation to the former republic of Yugoslavia, that when wars take place it would be inappropriate for the United Nations to take sides in a conflict of that type or to encourage the supply of arms to any of the combatants.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

One of the most welcome results of the NATO summit was the commitment to open Tuzla airport, which would greatly enhance the credibility of the United Nations and greatly assist the humanitarian effort in central Bosnia. What steps have the Government taken, either on their own or with their NATO allies, to implement that commitment? Is it understood that for Tuzla airport to be opened and kept open will require not only air power but the deployment of forces on the ground, possibly up to brigade strength?

Mr. Rifkind

Two decisions were taken at the NATO summit. One decision was to ensure the relief of Srebrenica, where it has not been possible for the Canadians to be relieved by other UNPROFOR forces. The second decision was to call for an urgent study of ways of opening Tuzla airport. The Dutch have now sent an advance party into Srebrenica and it is believed that the relief operation will be completed during this month. We obviously still need to study the results of the further work that has been commissioned with regard to the opening of Tuzla airport.

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