HC Deb 12 February 2001 vol 363 cc5-6
3. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

If he will make a statement on the involvement of KFOR as a consequence of Albanian insurgency into Macedonia and southern Serbia. [148220]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar)

We can be justly proud of the contribution British forces make to the multinational effort to bring peace and stability to Kosovo.

Our forces continue to play a pivotal role in the NATO-led multinational force in creating a stable environment in which the UN mission can carry out its vital work in developing civil society and local administration.

KFOR troops continue to monitor closely ethnic Albanian extremism in southern Serbia, and its operations to interdict men and material crossing the administrative boundary have been stepped up. In recent weeks, British forces have made a significant contribution to preventing ethnic violence and lawlessness, both in the region bordering the Presevo valley in Serbia, and in Mitrovica, where extremists persist in their attempts to block progress towards a peaceful multi-ethnic society.

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, policing and internal security remains a matter for the FYROM authorities. However, there has been dialogue between KFOR and FYROM on border security issues, and NATO has offered advice.

Mr. Dalyell

Why is it that marauding Albanians, rightly apprehended by British members of KFOR, are dispatched to the Americans at camp Bondsteel?

Mr. Spellar

Forces operating in Multinational Brigade (East) are reinforcing the United States efforts but are, of course, under the control of MNB(E). Camp Bondsteel is the main centre for that. We do not have sufficient facilities available there to detain those numbers of people.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Have the new United States Administration given any indication about whether they intend to withdraw their forces from Kosovo? If they have, or they do so in the near future, are European forces capable of filling the gap?

Mr. Spellar

The United States Administration have clearly indicated that they are evaluating their worldwide commitments. They have also indicated that they will not be taking any precipitous action, particularly in the Balkans, and that they will have discussions with allies on any changes that they might propose, following the evaluation that any new Administration would quite naturally make.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

My hon. Friend may be aware that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs was in Yugoslavia last week. We heard some very positive proposals by the Yugoslav Government to try to defuse the problems in the Presevo valley and to allow co-operation between the Yugoslav army and KFOR to deal with extremists while bringing moderate Albanians in Presevo more fully into public life in Yugoslavia. How are we responding to those proposals and making sure that KFOR responds positively as well?

Mr. Spellar

I understand that the Foreign Affairs Committee was impressed with the work being undertaken in Kosovo. We certainly welcome Belgrade's willingness to address these issues constructively and have noted Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Covic's proposals. NATO has taken these concerns seriously. We are also considering further measures and the NATO Secretary-General has had an exchange of letters with President Kostunica.

Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton)

Clearly, there are no quick fixes in the Balkans but there may be slow fixes. Will the Minister assure the House that the professionalism and dedication of British troops on the ground will be matched by the determination and support of the Government for as long as it takes?

Mr. Spellar