HC Deb 12 May 1998 vol 312 cc148-9
13. Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

If he will make a statement on the situation in Kosovo. [40504]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

The situation in Kosovo continues to be a matter of deepening concern. Fatalities in Kosovo are now an almost daily occurrence, and the authorities in Belgrade must accept major responsibility for the failure to start a political process, which is vital if we are to stop the violence.

Last Friday, at the meeting of the G8 Foreign Ministers, it was agreed by those present that we should proceed to impose the investment ban recommended by the last meeting of the contact group. During our presidency of the European Union, I have repeatedly made it clear to Belgrade that we want a closer working relationship with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There could, however, be no question of us accepting the Federal Republic as part of the family of modern Europe unless Belgrade stops its present repression and starts to respect the principles of human rights.

Mr. Bradshaw

Given my right hon. Friend's extremely worrying reply, will he assure the House that he will use his presidency to do all he can to implement the decision to send a mediator to Kosovo? Does he agree that it would be wrong for Europe to sit back and wait for the Americans to take the lead? We would be making exactly the same mistake as we made in Bosnia, with knobs on.

Mr. Cook

There can be no question of Europe sitting back and allowing America to take the lead. I hope that Richard Holbrooke's current mission in Belgrade is a success. On the question of a facilitator, I have recently written to President Milosevic urging him to accept the role for Felipe Gonzalez. We shall continue to press on him Mr. Gonzalez's role as special representative of the European Union and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In the meantime, although Belgrade refuses to accept outside facilitation, it is important for us to maintain the pressure, which is why we agreed to the ban on new investment within the Federal Republic.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

Is the Foreign Secretary now able to tell us more than he was able to tell the House on 30 April in response to questions by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), first, about the extent and effectiveness of the monitors who were deployed by the European monitoring mission within Kosovo and secondly, whether any further action has been considered or taken to strengthen the UN forces that are stationed on the Kosovo-Macedonia border? Can he reassure the House that he is receiving and reading comprehensive and up-to-date briefings from his officials on this situation, so that he can take timely and well-informed decisions on matters which, after all, affect the lives of many people?

Mr. Cook

The hon. Gentleman asks about the European Union monitors. Five such monitors are currently attached to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As much as possible, they have given continuous provision within Kosovo, and their monitoring reports have been well received by the international community and have kept us up to date. Yes, I should like to see more monitors there, but to achieve that, we should have to get an agreement from Belgrade, and at present, such agreement has not been forthcoming. The provision of UNPREDEP, the UN preventive deployment force, on the Macedonian border is a clear commitment, and we have repeatedly confirmed to the contact group that there will be an extension of the mandate. Quite what the balance of forces will be—whether it will be a UN or a NATO force—remains under negotiation. However, for the first time, we shall be holding a partnership for peace exercise in Macedonia this autumn in which British troops will participate.

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