HC Deb 03 April 1996 vol 275 cc374-5
5. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of the United Kingdom's relations with Croatia. [22615]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor)

The United Kingdom established diplomatic relations with Croatia in January 1992, and has a resident ambassador in Zagreb. We will continue to develop our bilateral relations.

Mr. Wareing

Is the Minister aware of the latest report from Elizabeth Renn, the United Nations special reporter on human rights in Yugoslavia, in which she expresses considerable concern about the conditions of the Serbian people who remain in that country? She particularly refers to harassment, discrimination, robberies and violence and she has expressed concern at the impossibility in the present conditions of refugees returning to Krajina following the military actions of the Croatian authorities. Is it not time that we exerted real pressure on what has become a neo-fascist regime in Zagreb to ensure that human rights are restored in that part of the world?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

The restoration of human rights is a matter of great concern in Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia. The matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers does cause us concern. However, we can draw encouragement from the fact that the Croatian authorities are co-operating well with the international court which has been set up to try war criminals. They have told me that they have 1,000 people on their list for potential indictment. So we are making progress, albeit more slowly than the hon. Gentleman and I would like.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Does my hon. Friend agree that many hon. Members accept that progress is being made? Despite the fact that Croatia is far from being a perfect democracy, does he concede that it has done a tremendous amount to harbour refugees within its borders? At one stage last year, some 10 per cent. of its population were refugees. Does not that humanitarian gesture deserve encouragement and support?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I agree that we should do all we can to encourage both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to treat their refugees well. Both countries deserve credit for the number of refugees that they have taken as a result of the tragedy in Bosnia. None the less, there is still much work to be done on that front. The international community must continue to work to ensure that still greater efforts are made.

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