HC Deb 31 January 1995 vol 253 cc846-7
11. Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the defence requirements to protect safe areas in Bosnia from violation by Serb forces.

Mr. Rifkind

The provision of United Nations troops, in regard to safe areas, is a matter for the United Nations Secretary-General and for United Nations protection force commanders.

Mr. Griffiths

For how long will the Secretary of State wash his hands of that problem and of the responsibilities? Does he not realise that when no-fly zones become free-fire zones for the Serbs and when safe areas become unsafe areas for slaughter, Orwellian language is alive and well and thriving in the Ministry of Defence here?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman might feel better for the use of such language, but it hears no relationship to the excellent work that the United Nations is doing in Bosnia, which has led to a cessation of hostilities and has meant that British forces are able to carry out their responsibilities, throughout the vast majority of Bosnia, without the risks and dangers that they faced there a short time ago.

Mr. Brazier

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those people who think that there are simple, surgical and overnight solutions to some of Bosnia's problems would do well to consider the Russian experience in chechnya?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise that if one wants to take part in a war, one has to send a war-fighting capability. The United Nations has not gone to Bosnia to fight a war, but it carries out its responsibilities with all the professionalism that we would expect.

Dr. Reid

The Secretary of State must agree that there must ultimately be a political solution in that tragic theatre of war. Within that context, does he accept that the presence of the United Nations protection force in Krajina is not only a vital prerequisite to a peaceful solution there, but an integral part of our military contribution to peacekeeping? Will he assure us that he and his colleagues in the Cabinet and the Ministry of Defence will use their good offices to ensure whatever pressure possible for the continuation of the UNPROFOR presence in Krajina after the present mandate expires?

Mr. Rifkind

It is, indeed, highly desirable that the United Nations should be permitted to continue its work in Croatia as, otherwise, there could be a recommencement of the fighting in that country, which could have dangerous implications for the whole of the Balkans.

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