HC Deb 01 May 2001 vol 367 cc743-5


Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

If he will make a statement on the situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. [158615]

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

I visited Macedonia last month, where I met the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. I also visited Tetevo, where I met the leaders of the Albanian parties. I raised Macedonia during my visit last week to Kosovo, where I received assurances from the leaders of all political parties of their support for the integrity of the borders of Macedonia.

We fully support Macedonia as a multi-ethnic democracy, and we congratulate it on being the first country in the region to sign a stabilisation agreement with the European Union. However, we continue to press the Government of Macedonia further to strengthen their society by tackling the discrimination that is felt by the Albanian minority.

The whole House will wish to deplore the recent ambush that killed eight Macedonian soldiers and to express our condolences to their families. We are determined to work with the Government of Macedonia to defeat both the terrorists and their poisonous message that Albanians and Slavs cannot live at peace in the same single state.

Mr. Heath

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. Is it not critical that the international community does everything that it can to prevent the importation of terrorism and instability to Macedonia? To that end, will he reconsider the point that I put to him on 27 March: that there is a need for some sort of force similar to UNPREDEP to protect the borders of Macedonia? Secondly, will he give the House his assessment of the consistency and coherence of different elements of KFOR in their approach to disarming the former KLA, and when does he think that that process will be completed?

Mr. Cook

While I was in Kosovo, I discussed the proposals for new anti-terrorist laws made by UNMIK. I am pleased to say that those proposals are now well developed. I hope that they will be in place soon and that they will provide a basis for longer detention of the type that the hon. Gentleman seeks.

On the question of Macedonia, I stress to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that we are doing a lot on the Kosovo side of the border. Indeed, British troops have been involved, interdicting terrorists and trying to make sure that we stop those who return from Macedonia having carried out terrorism. We remain committed to ensuring that that task continues and that there is a strong intelligence link-up with the army of Macedonia to make sure that together we are successful in beating the terrorists.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Is not the real agenda for those KLA terrorists a greater Albania? It has nothing to do with the extension of the Albanian language. Having ethnically cleansed Kosovo of almost all the minorities, the KLA's murderous extension into Macedonia is the real threat to peace in the Balkans. When will the Government and the west stop having tea with the likes of Thaci and Agim Ceku and start arresting them? They are the ringleaders, and until they go there will be no peace in the Balkans.

Mr. Cook

I would repeat to my hon. Friend what I told the House last month, when I made a statement on Macedonia: in the Balkans, we have managed to halt any plans to achieve a greater Croatia or a greater Serbia, and there is no place on the map of the Balkans for a greater Albania either. That is the message that I firmly expressed in Kosovo and Macedonia, where I said that the borders of Kosovo had been set and that the era in which borders can be redrawn in the Balkans in blood is gone and past. However, I tell my hon. Friend that if we had not acted in the way that we did in Kosovo—if we had allowed Milosevic to emerge a hero and a victor from Kosovo—Milosevic would still be in power, not, as he currently is, in prison.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire)

Is it the Government's view that more NATO troops are now needed properly to police the Macedonia-Kosovo border?

Mr. Cook

No, that is not the Government's view. We have always made it clear that if we receive a request from NATO on a decision in which we have participated, we will, of course, consider it, but we are urging all members of the KFOR team to show the same flexibility as the British contribution in being willing to go where the command of KFOR believes there is a requirement for them.