HC Deb 07 December 1999 vol 340 cc682-3
7. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

What actions the United Kingdom is taking to discourage financial and other support for UNITA which prolongs the war in Angola. [99949]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain)

It is vital that UNITA is starved of the fuel, arms and munitions supplies that enable it to maintain its murderous war, and I have taken fresh action to help to achieve that. The Bank of England has recently blocked five UNITA bank accounts.

Dr. Palmer

I am grateful to the Minister for his prompt action. Will he comment on the persistent reports that senior officials in Zambia, Uganda and Ukraine are helping to fuel the war by illicit shipments of arms into the territory?

Mr. Hain

I know of reports that show conclusively that Jonas Savimbi's UNITA organisation can sustain its murderous civil war activity, killing hundreds of thousands of people, as it has done for the past 20 years or so, only because fuel and arms are flown in, often with the connivance of the countries around Angola.

I am also aware of the allegations in respect of Zambia and Uganda. I have raised those with the Zambian Foreign Minister and the President of Uganda, and both have assured me that they will take any evidence that is given to them very seriously, because UNITA must be starved of its capacity to wage that war.

I am also aware of Ukrainian pilots flying in supplies. That must be stopped, and I look to the Ukrainian Government to take immediate action to stop it.

Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)

Is the Minister aware of the need, on humanitarian grounds alone, to keep some line of communication open to Jonas Savimbi and UNITA? I speak of the case—in which I have a constituency interest—of Jason Pope, a young man who was kidnapped by UNITA more than a year ago, and who has not been heard of since. I should like an assurance that the Minister is willing to speak to Mr. Pope's family and not to discount altogether the possibility of a mission by private citizens, including the family and anyone else—perhaps a Member of Parliament—to try to find that young man and return him to his family.

Mr. Hain

I very much welcome the opportunity to say that Foreign Office officials are in regular touch with Jason Pope's family. We are very aware—I am especially aware—of the suffering that his parents have been undergoing for some time. We are doing, and shall do, all that we can to track down his whereabouts. I hope that he is still alive.

UNITA—especially its leader—is a very difficult organisation to talk to on an honest basis. Jonas Savimbi has consistently broken his word. I should like UNITA to be brought into negotiations with the Government of Angola to achieve a peaceful settlement to the awful crisis and long-standing war, but it is difficult to envisage that happening with him at its head.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Telford)

I welcome everything that my hon. Friend has said, but does he agree that, sadly, there is nothing new about the present situation in that, whenever there has been a possibility of peace in Angola, the intransigence of UNITA has been the stumbling block? Given that, if that country had not been plagued by war and violence, it would have the potential to become one of the richest countries in Africa, does my hon. Friend agree that the whole international community should redouble its efforts to bring peace to that troubled country?

Mr. Hain

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The scandal is that, although Angola has the capacity to feed the whole of southern Africa and to become a really rich and prosperous country, contributing to Africa's renaissance with its vast natural resources in oil, gas and diamonds, it has been plagued by a dreadful civil war, waged by UNITA, previously supported by the CIA and the South Africans—although, thankfully, no longer.

We must act firmly and toughly against those who are supplying UNITA with fuel and munitions. United Nations sanctions are in place. Ambassador Fowler is doing an excellent job. However, it is time that we had action from the countries that are able to influence UNITA's supplies, and we in Britain have stepped up our campaign to ensure that that happens.

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