HL Deb 09 May 1978 vol 391 cc779-84

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have made any protests to the Cuban and Soviet Government about the influx of Cuban troops together with Russian military advisers and arms into the Horn of Africa, and also into Angola on the other side of the continent.


My Lords, I would refer the noble Earl to the reply which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gave in another place on 26th April, when he said that the Government had made clear their concern at the scale and nature of Soviet and Cuban military involvement in Africa, and shared the view of the Organisation of African Unity that disputes within Africa should be settled by African States themselves.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I should like to ask him whether he has seen an article about the war in Angola which was published in the Sunday Telegraph on 2nd April this year by that newspaper's diplomatic correspondent. In that article, it was stated that some 70,000 Angolans have been liquidated and that many, many Angolan children are shipped off to Havana for indoctrination and cheap labour purposes. Will the noble Lord contact his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary with a view—perhaps dropping détente for a moment—to making the strongest protests to both the Cuban and Russian Governments about this horrendous affair and to showing the world that we do care ?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl that on many occasions—indeed, at every possible opportunity—we have made absolutely clear to both the Soviet Union and the Government of Cuba that we deplore intervention by them or any other State in the internal affairs of any State in Africa—except, of course, by invitation of that State to an external Power. Some might say that the situation in Angola accrues to the latter definition, and that certain external forces are there at the invitation of the Angolan Government. However, I join with the noble Earl in denouncing once more what he has described as "horrendous" happenings, under the guise of liberation or whatever, in the continent of Africa and in other parts of the world.

I cannot immediately recall to mind the article to which the noble Earl referred. I very probably read it because I am a constant reader of that particular newspaper and its international coverage, which is very good. However, I shall refresh my memory as to what was then said, and I shall certainly convey to my right honourable friend the sentiments expressed by the noble Earl.


My Lords, does the noble Lord not think it strange that those countries which are continually accusing the West of interference in African affairs seem to find this Cuban interference perfectly acceptable? Will he, perhaps, remind those countries of that rather strange fact?


My Lords, yes; I shall always do my best. Some interventions are more congenial to some countries than other interventions. It is a matter of choice; it is a nice question whether one takes a matter like this to higher authority and whether the basis for one's initiative is firmly grounded. As my right honourable friend has more than once said in another place, a country is entitled to invite another country to enter its borders, even with military aid. On that basis, however obnoxious a system may be, we have no very firm ground for objection. However, what the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said about what flows from that kind of intervention is very much our business and the business of the international community.


My Lords, does my noble friend recall that some time ago I asked him a Question which was similar to the one now on the Order Paper and that he replied in a somewhat oblique fashion, and not in a direct fashion, about representations made to the Soviet Government? In point of fact is it not true to say that our Government have not made direct representations to the Soviet Government complaining about their intervention in Angola or in any other part of the world? If I am wrong in that assumption, has there been any direct response to the representations that we have made?


My Lords, I do not think that the Soviet Government would agree with my noble friend that our representations have not been direct, judging from the reactions of that Government to, for instance, the speech made at the Mansion House fairly recently by my right honourable friend. That was very direct speaking indeed; it was noted as such by the Soviet Government. Equally, in a diplomatic fashion and through the usual channels (for which my noble friend, as a former Member of the Cabinet, must have some respect) we have made it abundantly clear to the Soviet Union and to the Cuban Government—and I could give instances of dates and occasions when this has been done recently—that we regard intervention in Africa and anywhere else for other than absolutely peaceful purposes as deplorable and dangerous. No one could have spoken more clearly or more to the point on this matter to both Governments than my right honourable friend, and that was done recently.


My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord's last Question, can the Government say whether there has been any direct, written reply?


My Lords, there have been numerous replies. Indeed, the noble Baroness will have noticed that from time to time there are exchanges, oral and written, between Governments which pick up a number of questions; this is not the only one. We have made our position clear. So far, unfortunately, the two Governments concerned have made their position clear. However, we are not without hope that wiser counsels will prevail, especially in view of the fact that the Organisation o African Unity, the African States themselves, led by Nigeria—an extremely important, and many would say very powerful State in Africa—have taken up a mediative posture. We are bound to support an African initiative on this matter. Until that is clearly shown to have proved ineffective, we must confine ourselves to strong representations to the Governments concerned and strong support for the African States who are trying to resolve this matter.


My Lords, as one who is opposed to any foreign intervention in Africa, whether Russian, Cuban, or South African, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that many of us sympathise with Eritrea against Ethiopia? Is he also aware that I have approached the Soviet authorities on this subject, and have been assured by them that they do not intend to intervene against Eritrea? Have the Government any confirmation of that attitude?


My Lords, I am aware of what my noble friend has interpreted as the Soviet attitude, that beyond assisting the Ethiopians to recover their status quo boundary they do not intend to intervene further. We take full note of that. That is helpful, so far as it goes. I am grateful to my noble friend for reminding us, and reminding the Soviet Union, that that is their public posture. However, we are also aware that there is a Cuban presence in that area, and although the Cubans have been interested, and helpfully interested in the past in Eritrea, a military presence in or near that territory would not seem to be conducive to an early settlement. One would hope that the exemplary gesture of the Soviet Union might be imitated by their friends in Cuba.


My Lords, while the Soviet Union and Cuba may not have any intention of intervening directly in the struggle in Eritrea, has not the military aid they gave the Ethiopians in respect of the Ogaden conflict enabled the Derg to release their forces from there and bring enormous pressure to bear on the freedom fighters in Eritrea? Since we have been unable to exert influence on the Ethiopian regime direct, or through the Soviet Union and Cubans, could not we try, in conjunction with those members of the OAU who are also members of the Commonwealth, to intercede with the Ethiopians to allow self-determination of the Eritrean people?


My Lords, certainly, and there is a longstanding UN interest in Eritrea, as the noble Lord knows. What we are working for is a revival of the UN interest in the future of Eritrea—there is a tradition of examining this question, and for a time it seemed to be making progress; that was some years ago—and at the same time to support every African initiative in regard to stability in Eritrea, and indeed in Ethiopia and Somalia, and hopefully in Angola and every other African State on the continent.


My Lords, if the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is so insistent that African affairs should be sorted out by Africans themselves and without outside interference, why does he persist in seeking to impose an Anglo-American solution on Africans in Rhodesia?


My Lords, the Anglo-American solution, which attracts considerable support in Africa, was devised and persisted with as the best way to achieve a situation in which in fact Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa will be administered by Africans. In any case, is it not right to apply the doctrine of non-intervention by external Powers not only to Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, hut also to Angola—and to Angola in relation to intervention not only from Communist Powers but possibly from some Power to the south of that land?

The Earl of DUNDEE

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord—

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)

My Lords, I think that we have been a long time on this Question, and have had a very good Question period, so I hope that we can progress.

The Earl of DUNDEE

My Lords, could I ask one more question?


No, my Lords, I do not think so.

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