HC Deb 24 February 1999 vol 326 cc404-14 4.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

Madam Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a statement on the Kosovo talks.

In my statement three weeks ago, I reported that the Contact Group had agreed to summon both sides to negotiations for a political settlement on the basis of the documents tabled by that group. Both sides responded to that summons and took part in peace talks held until yesterday at Rambouillet. As co-chair of the talks, the United Kingdom was fully engaged in brokering agreement between the two parties, and the House will wish to recognise the immense effort put in by officials, some of whom have worked without break and occasionally without sleep. I record the appreciation of all the British team for the close co-operation of France, both as co-chair and as host of the talks.

At the outset, both parties to the talks had a large number of reservations about the Contact Group's proposals for the constitution of a self-governing Kosovo. The great majority of them were resolved. However, the Yugoslav delegation still has some difficulties, such as the limited role of the Serbian courts; and the Albanian side is still particularly concerned about the absence of a commitment to a referendum on independence at the end of the three-year period. Those problems remain. Nevertheless, we obtained consensus from both sides for a democratic, self-governing Kosovo, and agreement to the main elements in the detailed texts on its constitution.

Those texts provide Kosovo with its own assembly, constitution, president, Government, taxes, laws, and police and security. They provide a sweeping measure of autonomy for Kosovo, including the right to conduct foreign relations in respect of the areas within the competence of the Kosovar assembly. The constitution also provides full protection for the national communities within Kosovo, including the right of both Serb and Albanian communities to have representative bodies to protect and promote their respective languages, cultures, religions and educational curriculums.

There was broad agreement on both sides regarding a major international presence in support of the political settlement. Elections to the assembly, local communes and community bodies are to be supervised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Both parties agreed to the appointment of an international ombudsman to monitor human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the texts provide for the European Commission to take the lead role in co-ordinating the economic reconstruction of Kosovo.

The most difficult issue was the proposal for an international military presence in Kosovo. The Yugoslav delegation refused to accept that the presence of foreign troops was consistent with Yugoslav national sovereignty. There were also serious difficulties on the Albanian side—particularly among representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who found it hard to accept that a condition of an international military force must be that they demilitarise and surrender their weapons.

Throughout the talks, I made it clear that Britain was willing to provide ground troops to underpin the interim settlement, but that there could be no question of us or our allies doing so without a clear commitment to such a ceasefire and to the withdrawal or disarmament on both sides that is necessary to make it a reality. Both parties agreed to meet again on 15 March to discuss all aspects of the implementation of the new constitution of Kosovo, including the civilian and military international presence. My colleague Hubert Védrine and I are considering how we can use the interval between now and then to convince the wider public in Kosovo and Serbia that the outcome is a good bargain for both, and the best deal that they will have to end the conflict.

I regret to inform the House that violent conflict continues in Kosovo. On Monday, there was fighting near Vucitrn. Yesterday, there was further fighting at Bukos, in which we know that at least one Serb was killed and five were injured. We do not yet have figures for casualties on the Albanian side. Today, there has been further fighting near Suva Reka.

Last night, Javier Solana confirmed that NATO expects both sides to respect the ceasefire and remains ready to use whatever means are necessary in support of it. Yesterday, all the NATO members of the Contact Group repeated their support for decisive NATO action if Belgrade makes a disproportionate response or takes violent reprisals against the civilian population. We also hold the Kosovo Liberation Army responsible for its part in maintaining a ceasefire. Both sides should use the next three weeks to build on the new agreement for peace, not to break down the existing agreement for a ceasefire.

When I last spoke to the House on this issue, I ended by saying that I could not confirm that the talks that we were seeking would take place, nor guarantee that they would succeed. We were successful in getting both sides to take part in the talks. As a result, we have created a peace process, and the end of the Rambouillet talks is not the end of that process but only the conclusion of its first phase. Both sides have committed themselves to taking part in its next phase.

I cannot report to the House that we have yet reached complete agreement to the Contact Group texts, but we have secured agreement to the overwhelming majority of them. That result proves that we were right to try for peace by summoning the talks, but also demonstrates the extra mile we still have to travel. I can assure the House that we will maintain our pressure on both sides to end the conflict through negotiations.

Neither side is going to end this conflict through military action. Neither side can gain from prolonging it. The longer Belgrade continues to try to resolve the conflict by military repression, the more difficult any final outcome that stops short of independence for Kosovo is made. The longer the Kosovo Liberation Army continues to provoke conflict, the more difficult it makes it for the international community to stop the bloodshed among its people.

Both sides have recognised the value of the Contact Group proposals. I urge them now to work with us in implementing them, and to turn their commitments on paper into reality on the ground: the reality of a Kosovo free from fear and governed by free elections.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon)

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that no agreement has been reached or signed at Rambouillet, and that the sticking points were Kosovo's insistence on a referendum on its future and Serbia's refusal to allow a NATO peacekeeping force on Kosovan territory? Both sides have refused to give way on those points and appear unlikely to do so. The Kosovo Albanians would rather fight than give up the prospect of independence and Serbia would—apparently—rather be bombed than have NATO troops on its territory. Both calculate that this would enhance their positions.

As I understand it, the strategy was to get the Kosovo Albanians on side quickly and then threaten the Serbs, but it fell apart early and proved to be misconceived. Why was there such a miscalculation? Why was the Kosovo Albanian position not better understood in advance? That was the fundamental fault. The Foreign Secretary had a carrot for the Kosovo Albanians and no stick, and a stick for Milosevic but no carrot. This obvious flaw in his strategy led to Milosevic being allowed off the hook.

Now we are to have a three-week delay. All hon. Members hope that things will work on 15 March, but each delegation is probably going to spend the three-week hiatus talking to its hardliners, seeking unity not behind an agreement but behind sticking points to strengthen its negotiating position. There is a danger that the situation on the ground will deteriorate by 15 March. It is happening already and will inflame both sides.

Why was the Rambouillet format chosen for the talks when the Dayton model—shut all the parties away in a remote, unattractive location without access to press or home capitals, with all the principals present, and refuse to let them go until an agreement has been reached—was known and successful? [Interruption.] Well, it worked and this has not. Why choose a French chateau just outside Paris with free access to the media and perpetual contact with delegations' capitals? All the principals were at Dayton, including Milosevic and Holbrooke. The key character, Milosevic, was missing at Rambouillet. Of course, Holbrooke was at Dayton, where having one's arm twisted by him was pretty effective. Apparently, it is not quite as effective when done by the Foreign Secretary.

There were the additional mistakes of for ever setting deadlines, and extending them, and having a Contact Group of five nations that did not agree among themselves. The Contact Group had no real coercive threat, and Russia disagreed with the imposition of what threat there was. The only real coercion was from the United States, which had to try to rescue the process. Surely the lesson is that only the United States is a credible threat—at least that is what Milosevic seems to think.

I have some questions, and I would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary addressed them. The Rambouillet process was supposed to last two weeks. Despite extensions, it has failed in its objective. In the Foreign Secretary's words, the talks have become "a process". I hope that that process will succeed on 15 March, although we have serious doubts. What will the Foreign Secretary do if the Kosovo Albanians refuse to sign without a commitment to a referendum? What will he do if the Kosovo Albanians agree, but Milosevic refuses to have a NATO force? Would we bomb Serbia, or would the Foreign Secretary agree to any other force? If bombing were to start, how could he guarantee the safety of OSCE monitors? Does Russia still wholly oppose a NATO force?

The Foreign Secretary said in his statement that NATO will take action if Belgrade makes a disproportionate response, or instigates violent reprisals. What exactly does that mean? If the process fails, can he absolutely and unconditionally guarantee that the very large NATO army in Macedonia will not be used except under the terms of a peace agreement, and to help to implement that agreement?

Does the Foreign Secretary think that the Rambouillet process has enhanced Milosevic's respect for NATO? Does he think that Britain's credibility in the world has been enhanced by his conduct of the process? Does he think that Milosevic regards him personally with more fear and respect than before Rambouillet? The House knows the answers to these questions. We have witnessed all the Foreign Secretary's final warnings, all the unfulfilled expectations that he has aroused, his summonses of the parties, and the posturing incompetence with which these matters have been handled. Unfortunately, the people of Kosovo are also only too aware of the consequences.

Mr. Cook

Let us begin with the questions for which the hon. Gentleman managed to find time in his little speech. First, if there is any question of bombing, the monitors will be withdrawn. Secondly, it is nonnegotiable for us that any force to which we commit British forces must have a tried, trusted and tested command structure. For us, that means a NATO command structure.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Russia continues to oppose a NATO force. Russia's position throughout has been that it is willing to take part in a military presence if it is invited by Belgrade. He asked exactly when we would commence bombing Belgrade. I cannot think of anything more helpful to Milosevic than to spell out exactly when we might do so.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether this process has increased respect for Britain and the conduct of its foreign policy. I reported only on Sunday to all European Union Foreign Ministers, all of whom are in support of the Rambouillet process, and all of whom understand both the effort that went into it and the difficulty of securing success.

I turn to the hon. Gentleman's preamble. Remote though the prospect is at present that he will find himself in government, I am always tempted by the thought of his having two weeks in office, just to discover the reality of the problems of carrying out international negotiations. What he described was pure fantasy. Richard Holbrooke has already had a go at trying to twist arms. He produced the Holbrooke package in October, which we welcomed and supported. Since then, we have been seeking to build on it, and to improve it by working on areas that were missing from it, especially the question of the guarantee for the implementation of an agreement.

As far as I could tell from the hon. Gentleman's contrast of Rambouillet and Dayton, the only difference that he found was that Rambouillet was attractive and Dayton was certainly unattractive. I remind the hon. Gentleman that what happened at Dayton came as a result of several months of bombing in Serbia and the Serbian side then recognising that, for them, the military conflict was over. If the hon. Gentleman wants us to follow a model in which we achieve peace only after several months of bombing, I have to tell him that at present there are not many takers among his allies.

No, we have not let Milosevic off the hook and we have not let the KLA off the hook. Both are now confronted with having to come up to scratch on the agreement that they have made. Yes, there was an agreement at Rambouillet. That agreement was not perfect or complete—that is in the nature of international negotiation. However, as the Serbian side acknowledged, there was major progress towards substantial autonomy for Kosovo and, for the Kosovar side, an agreement that it could accept subject to consultation.

That justifies our efforts at Rambouillet; indeed, there was greater agreement than I predicted when we started. I did not predict that the process would be easy or end in triumph; I predicted that it would be difficult and that we would not necessarily get agreement. We have done so, and it would be helpful in pushing Milosevic and the KLA into abiding by that agreement if the hon. Gentleman recognised what had been achieved.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

After that rather sour performance from the Opposition Front Bench, would not the House have been better served by the lofty statesmanship of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)? The better view is surely: so far, so good. The agreement is not ideal, but it is far better than one might have hoped at the start of the process, and all involved must receive our congratulations on stopping something worse.

Is my right hon. Friend confident that the will exists on both sides of the conflict, among the Kosovar Albanians and the Yugoslavs, to prevent a substantial deterioration on the ground before 15 March? Did he get that message from the representatives at Rambouillet? What role is envisaged for the OSCE monitors after the eventual agreement?

Mr. Cook

It is recognised in the text that there will be a strong role for the Kosovo verification mission, particularly its head, as we implement the new constitution for Kosovo provided for by the documents. Indeed, the head of the mission will be responsible for nearly all aspects of civilian and political construction in securing agreement to them.

The verification mission continues to do vital work in seeking to make sure that the ceasefire is maintained, and by and large is successful in doing so where it is present. I regret that there are only 1,200 members of what should be a team of 2,000. One of the points that I agreed with my colleagues at the close of the talks is that we must consider how we can increase the pace at which we fill those remaining places.

My hon. Friend asked a grave question that goes to the heart of the conflict that we face in Kosovo. I have to tell the House that I did not receive assurances that I would regard with confidence about future conduct in the conflict. Both sides have to recognise their responsibility and they have to recognise that neither of them can win by conflict. It is in their interests to agree to the process that we have started and to accept the constitutional and political settlement on offer.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife

): I begin by acknowledging and applauding the efforts of officials and the Foreign Secretary, but I hope that he will forgive me if I strike a more pessimistic note than that contained in his statement.

Must we not properly acknowledge that the outcome of Rambouillet is inconclusive—we have only a provisional agreement on political structures, we have no agreement on the peacekeeping force and we have no peace in Kosovo, as events of the past 72 hours have eloquently demonstrated? Is not the position further complicated by the power struggle taking place within the KLA and the risks of provocation and retaliation to which the Foreign Secretary referred in his statement? Realistically, what physical steps can we take to prevent deterioration in Kosovo between now and 15 March?

Mr. Cook

I have been clear that the agreement is not a complete agreement—indeed, it is a partial agreement. However, I believe that that is better than no agreement at all. We did make progress at Rambouillet, but I am not pretending to the right hon. and learned Gentleman or to the House that we have completed that task.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to stress the importance of the process being able to continue when we meet on 15 March, in order to achieve an observance of what is now a grumbling ceasefire, without escalation. He asks how we can secure that. The first barrier to escalation is the verification mission. We are looking at how we can complete its numbers and make sure that it is brought up to full strength.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's second question concerned what other measures would then be available to us. The best measure that we have to secure compliance from Belgrade is to make it clear to Belgrade, as I have already done, that the NATO planes remain on alert, and that the order for Javier Solana to authorise their use remains in force. We are all clear within NATO that, in the event of disproportionate military action by Belgrade—if there was any repeat of the atrocities that have taken place in the past—that authorisation is available and could be used in those circumstances.

The Kosovo Liberation Army must also accept its share of responsibility for maintaining the ceasefire. Too often in the past, action has been initiated from the Kosovo Liberation side. We have made it plain to the Kosovo Liberation Army that we are well aware of the way in which it has broken the ceasefire. We will not allow ourselves to be trapped into ending up as the KLA's air force, as a result of provocation that it initiated.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that for many people, including myself, the one outcome from the Rambouillet talks is that bombing has not begun? The most terrifying argument put from both sides of the House at one stage was that the credibility of NATO would be the justification for bombing.

Is the Foreign Secretary also aware that, whatever the outcome may be, if, without the authority of the Security Council, the United States and Britain or other countries bomb or enter a sovereign state without the consent of that state, that will be a breach of international law? If, as he said, quite rightly, the problem inside Yugoslavia cannot be solved by conflict, it certainly cannot be solved by the conflict being entered by people pretending to be the world's policemen.

Will the Foreign Secretary further consider that, when one thinks of the problems affecting minorities such as the Kurds, the Palestinians and the people of East Timor, the position occupied by the American and British Governments is not really very credible?

Mr. Cook

There is no question of our entering Kosovo with military force in circumstances in which there is no peace agreement to police. We have made that clear repeatedly. We do not intend to fight our way into Kosovo. Unless we were clear about what we were going to do there by way of peace settlement, such an undertaking would be pointless.

Secondly, with reference to the Security Council, there was broad agreement at Rambouillet among all the members of the Contact Group that, in the event of a settlement, we would invite the Security Council to approve and endorse the settlement.

In the event that we are faced again with a humanitarian crisis as a result of excessive military repression in Kosovo—if, once again, we are faced with tens of thousands of refugees on the hillsides, or if, once again, we are faced with innocent civilians being executed at close range, with no suggestion that that was happening in fighting—I do not believe that my right hon. Friend's constituents or those of any other hon. Member would understand it if we did not respond.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon)

The Foreign Secretary must know that all of us hope that on 15 March solutions can be found and we can go forward without resorting to bombing. If that is the case, all sides will deserve to be congratulated.

Can the Foreign Secretary say what will happen after the three-year period? Is there to be Serbian law in Kosovo? Is there to be an entire new structure of law? What is the position with regard to education? How will that be dealt with, if Kosovo is given a measure of independence? Only if such matters are dealt with satisfactorily will there be a long-term solution of the problem.

Mr. Cook

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's questions on the issue of law is that it would be for the Kosovo assembly to apply the laws of Kosovo as they are at present, or to amend them as it chooses. The document throughout is carefully balanced and calibrated to respect the rights and aspirations of the other communities of Kosovo, particularly the Serb community, which is why it provides for the right of appeal to the Serb courts for representatives of the Serb community. One issue that we have been looking at lately is the right of Serb judges to take part in the Kosovo courts.

The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of education. That, too, would be a matter for the representative bodies of the national communities, both Serb and Albanian, who would have control over the curriculum, cultural questions, religion and matters that trench closely on their different approaches to education. However, education would be a devolved competence of the Kosovo assembly.

As I hope my remarks have shown, enormous ingenuity and thought have gone into providing for Kosovo maximum self-government of a sweeping character, while ensuring that the rights, privileges and customs of Kosovo's other communities are fully protected.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's even-handed and balanced assessment of the situation in Kosovo. He must deal not only with two warring parties but with the carping critics in the House and with the difficulty of Europe influencing a United States Administration who sometimes find it too easy to look for quick-fix air strike solutions to complex problems. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Europeans will continue to work patiently and assiduously for a political outcome of the conflict and do their best to ensure that the United States follows that process over the next few weeks?

Mr. Cook

In response to my hon. Friend's observations, I recall that throughout the period when we were in opposition, whenever the then Government sought to achieve a peace initiative we did not regard it as our function to score party political points when they responded to the House.

Mr. Maples

That is silly.

Mr. Cook

I should have thought that a more serious approach to this matter would be to regard it as a grave international crisis, not a matter for partisan politics.

My hon. Friend is right to say that there is no quick-fix solution to the problem. Nevertheless, I would counsel him against falling into a trap similar to the one that the Opposition spokesman fell into in suggesting a clear break between Europe and the United States. We shall solve this problem only if Europe and the United States work closely together, as we have over the past three days at Rambouillet.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester)

It is widely reported that relations between Serbia and Montenegro have deteriorated sharply in recent months. The Montenegrin authorities have said that they will refuse the Yugoslav army access to their territory. Have NATO powers received such representations about the use of force on their territory from the Montenegrins? Will the Foreign Secretary acknowledge that, for good or ill, a likely by-product of the initiative of the past few weeks is the destabilisation of former Yugoslavia? In the light of the initiative, is it feasible in the long term that Montenegro can remain part of the Yugoslav federal republic?

Mr. Cook

I met President Djukanovic of Montenegro last week when we had a full discussion lasting an hour and a half about both the current situation in Kosovo and the tensions within the federal republic. I have assured President Djukanovic of the full support of Britain and the west for his measures to achieve a more open market economy and society within Montenegro—measures that we supported financially during the British presidency of the European Union. I have also assured him that our quarrel is with Belgrade and that we shall do all that we can to ensure that our actions in respect of Belgrade are not applied in relation to Montenegro. He has been a valuable and supportive critic of Belgrade's role in so many of the actions that have led to the present crisis in Kosovo and elsewhere. I very much hope that we shall be able to support him whenever possible.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

The Foreign Secretary referred to what the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would think. On Saturday night, I was talking to some of the Foreign Secretary's constituents and mine—we share the same local authority—and some mutual old friends of ours. They are serious people and political associates of 30 years, and they are deeply concerned about the whole question of bombing and the effect that it has.

Is not the truth that, when people are bombed, they become far more resistant to a solution than if they had not been bombed? May I gently ask my colleagues on the Front Bench whether they understand, because they are of a younger generation, the effect of bombing on people? The Secretary of State for Defence knows that I sent his office an obituary of a distinguished group captain, who said that, during the war, Hitler had ordered a fortnight's leave for any German—in the Afrika Korps or on the Russian front—whose house had been bombed. Why? Because they would return and, with greater determination than ever before, fight for the cause, which we may think is entirely wrong. On the whole question of bombing, cannot the Government have a think about the effect of it?

Mr. Cook

I am not sure to what extent my hon. Friend's question arises from the content of my statement, because I am here to discuss a peace process that we started to try to achieve an end to the conflict in Kosovo. It was not the objective of Rambouillet or of the peace process to embark on a bombing campaign, but I have said, and I repeat again, that there should be no misunderstanding in Belgrade that the authorisation for action by NATO remains fully in place.

Mr. Dalyell

Not by the Russians.

Mr. Cook

They are not members of NATO and we would not allow them to have a veto on what we were to decide within NATO.

I say to my hon. Friend that the issue in Kosovo is not bombing by Britain or by any other member state of NATO, but the fact that so many of the villages of Kosovo have been demolished by artillery and mortar fire by Serb forces, and so many civilians in Kosovo have been shot and made homeless; and that 200,000 people are still displaced in Kosovo and elsewhere in the region as a result of the fighting. In order to stop that, we went to Rambouillet, and, in order to prevent further serious escalation of the violence, we are ready to take action, if it is required.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Will the Foreign Secretary address the problems that will arise if his strategy is successful? First, British forces will have to be deployed to support any agreement. He has already alluded to the fact that only 1,200 of the 2,000 monitors have been forthcoming. The United Kingdom has offered 8,000—the largest share—for the force for Kosovo, but such a deployment could be maintained for only six months before it caused serious problems of overstretch for the Army. The clock is already ticking, because those people are preparing for that operation. How will we ensure that, when we want to reduce the British contingent, others will take its place to safeguard the agreement?

Secondly, will the Foreign Secretary address the problem of what will happen in three years' time if we force the Kosovars into the agreement and to withdraw their insistence on the right of self-determination at some stage in the process? Will we find ourselves doing Serbia's dirty work in preventing the Kosovars from exercising a democratic freedom that, for example, we in the United Kingdom would be happy for the people of Scotland to express?

Mr. Cook

The hon. Gentleman's last point is flatly in conflict with the agreed strategy of all members of the Contact Group and throughout the wider international community, which is that we will support a democratic, self-governing Kosovo. We will create the structures for a three-year interim accord, in order that that can take place. There is no commitment in the international community to the independence of Kosovo. We are not proposing, therefore, to have an independent Kosovo at the end of that time, but we will go in only if the Kosovars also accept a ceasefire, also accept the interim accord and also accept that they have to surrender their weapons.

On the issue of overstretch, the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, which would go in as the headquarters of the operation, would go in on the standard basis that it would be providing the headquarters for six months. We would expect the alliance to carry through its standard procedures to make sure that there was a permanent headquarters at the end of those six months, and that we could withdraw the ARRC headquarters.

I will not deny that there would be considerable strain on the British Army as a result of this deployment. That strain would be a lot less if the British Army had not been cut in real terms by one third under the previous Administration, when he advised the Ministry of Defence.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

I shall not comment for the moment on the murderous conduct of the Serbs, but is not the belligerent intransigence of elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army strongly reminiscent of the behaviour of those fascist mobsters in the IRA? Should not the KLA's friends in the region urge its members to play the long game? They have been offered a remarkable degree of autonomy, and autonomy must precede independence.

Mr. Cook

I am not sure that those friends whom the KLA has are necessarily seeking to benefit from a cessation of the conflict, but I agree with my hon. Friend's judgment about the value, on balance, to the people of Kosovo. The settlement would offer an end to the bloodshed and repression. It would mark the start of democracy and freedom of expression, and would create self-governing institutions that could run Kosovo's affairs.

At the end of the conference, we engaged in much discussion about whether there should be a referendum on independence in three years' time. I suspect that, given their present position, if the people of Kosovo were offered a referendum now on whether to accept the political settlement, the result would be an overwhelming yes.

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

On behalf of all whom I represent, I wish the Foreign Secretary and everyone else involved well in their attempts to secure a settlement on 15 March, and thank the right hon. Gentleman for the efforts that he has already made.

Given that nearly 40 per cent. of the KLA's troops now come from outside Kosovo, what steps is the international community taking to ensure that, when those fighters return to Albania or Macedonia, they do not take the conflict back with them? What will the international community do to prop up Albania's economy so that such people return with more than the inspiration to fight another war there, and to create a decent environment for them in their own country?

Mr. Cook

Our evidence suggests that, by and large, the Macedonian Government—and, indeed, the Albanian population in Macedonia—have remained distant from the conflict in Kosovo. Indeed, Macedonia is playing host to a substantial build-up of NATO forces, and we welcome its close co-operation.

Northern Albania is more or less outside the rule of law and the remit of the capital of Albania. We have offered the Albanian Government support to try to improve the situation—in particular, we have offered help with the training of the local police force—and we shall continue that work; but, given the present conditions in northern Albania, it has proved well nigh impossible to prevent extra troops and weapons from crossing the border.

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