HC Deb 20 June 2000 vol 352 cc147-8
8. Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington)

If he will make a statement on the situation in Eritrea. [125211]

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

Since May 1998, Eritrea and Ethiopia—two of the world's poorest countries—have been engaged in a senseless and tragic war that has caused an appalling number of casualties. We welcome the proposal for an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, recently brokered by the Organisation of African Unity in Algiers, and we shall work to support its early implementation.

Mr. Brake

I thank the Minister for that response. Everyone hopes that the agreement will succeed. Does he agree that the main issue is policing the buffer zone? Are 2,000 peacekeepers enough? Is he aware of any European Union country having offered troops, and if so, how many? Is he aware of any contingency plans made by the UN in case the conflict resumes, causing the peacekeepers to be withdrawn?

Mr. Hain

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked serious questions about the problems in the Horn of Africa, which has been desperately hit by drought and other problems. The war must end. The United Nations is actively engaged in seeking to promote peace and stabilise the region, and Britain is working closely with the UN and supporting the Organisation of African Unity's proposals and the efforts to ensure that Ethiopia and Eritrea never again enter into that pointless war.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test)

Will my hon. Friend ask the Department for International Development to make it clear that one condition for aid must be that it is not provided to countries waging war on their neighbours?

Mr. Hain

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is precisely why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made it clear that she would not enter into a strong bilateral aid and development programme while war was being waged and with no guarantee that resources from Britain would not, at least indirectly, continue that war.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

If it is right to withhold aid from Ethiopia in case the money is squandered in Eritrea, why is it wrong to withhold aid from Zimbabwe, where we spend $27 million, much of it squandered on Mr. Mugabe's revolting private war in the Congo?

Mr. Hain

British aid to Zimbabwe is used, for example, to tackle the huge problem of HIV and AIDS. None of it is spent in the Congo. We have strongly condemned President Mugabe's strategy of using aid for that purpose, which is entirely wrong and has resulted in a British arms embargo. Britain is supplying £9 million worth of food aid to Ethiopia and Eritrea—the second largest contribution after that of the United States—and that will continue. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that victims of AIDS in Zimbabwe, or victims of starvation in Ethiopia, should be denied aid—or is that a new Conservative policy?

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